#2 UCLA Bruins Outlast #4 Villanova Wildcats, 86-77, in OT
This game lived up to what you would expect from two of the top teams in the country.
It’s official: Last season’s miraculous Final Four run was no fluke. That’s because the #2 Bruins defeated the #4 Villanova Wildcats in overtime last night at Pauley Pavilion.
And, unlike the UCLA football team which has had problems finishing games in each of the past two seasons, this Bruin team was able to finish. In fact, UCLA was down 10 points with less than nine and a half minutes to play when the Bruins started chipping away at Villanova’s lead.
In fact, this game was close all game long. It took almost a full minute for either team to score. Finally, Johnny Juzang hit a jumper to give the Bruins theit first lead of the game.
For the most part, UCLA held onto the lead early. After Villanova tied the game at 2-2, immediately retook the lead and managed to stretch it to as many as nine points with 10:42 left in the half. That would be UCLA’s biggest lead of regulation.
The Bruins still lead by niWith ne, 23-14, with 7:48 left. But the Wildcats then went on a 10-0 run to take the lead 24-23 with 5:14 to go in the half. After a bucket by Jacquez, Villanova turned that run into a 16-2 as the Wildcats opened up their biggest lead of the first half, 30-25.
The Bruins finally bounced back with a three from Jules Bernard and a basket from Juzang to tie the game, 30-30, with 58 seconds left in the half. Juzang also hit a buzzer beater and the Bruins took a 32-30 lead into the locker room.
The second half played out as a battle between two of the best teams in the country. Neither team led by more than four points in the first ten minutes after the break.
Villanova’s Justin Moore hit a three with exactly ten minutes to go to give the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game to that point, 57-50. Collin Gillespie followed with another from beyond the arc at 9:24 and, just like that, Villanova lead by ten, 60-50.
That might have been the turning point of the game for the Bruins. Tyger Campbell hit back to back threes to cut the lead back to four, 60-56, but Jermaine Samuels responded with one of his own to give the Cats a seven-point lead with 8:14 left in the game.
And, then, both teams went cold. Neither would score for almost three minutes. Finally, Jaime Jacquez ended the dry spell when he hit a free throw with 5:30 to go. That shot started a 5-0 mini-run by UCLA that cut the lead to 63-61 with just under four minutes to go.
A layup from Justin Moore put Villanova up by four again, 67-63, with just 2:13 to go.
But the Bruins refused to lose.
A pair of free throws by Juzang left the Bruins down by a bucket with 1:20 to go and Bernard hit a jumper to tie the game with 32 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
It was almost like a continuation of last year’s NCAA Tournament which saw the Bruins come back again and again.
While Villanova got the first two points of overtime, the Bruins went on 9-1 run to take a 76-70 lead with 1:26 left.
After Brandon Slater hit a pair of free throws, Jaquez added a pair for the Bruins. Those shots were the game-winners for UCLA since the Wildcats would only be able to score five more points in the final minute. The Bruins went on to an 86-77 victory.
UCLA’s next game is on Monday at 8 pm against Long Beach State.