Northwestern falls short of Sweet 16 hopes as they lose to UCLA
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CBS/AP) — Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 24 points and UCLA withstood a second-half push from Northwestern to get back to the Sweet 16 with a 68-63 victory on Saturday night.
The second-seeded Bruins (31-5) turned up the defensive intensity late, holding the seventh-seeded Wildcats to 1-for-12 shooting during a key late-game stretch to seal the win.
The win was marred when David Singleton went down in extreme pain with a right leg injury with 20.3 seconds remaining. He stayed down on the court for a few minutes before getting helped off by teammates and going straight to the locker room. There was no immediate word on the extent of the injury.
UCLA made it to a third straight Sweet 16 for the first time in 15 years. The Bruins will play the winner of Sunday's game between Gonzaga and TCU in the West Region semifinals in Las Vegas, on Thursday night.
Amari Bailey added 14 points and Tyger Campbell scored 12 for UCLA.
Boo Buie scored 18 points to lead Northwestern (22-12), Matthew Nicholson added 17 and Chase Audige scored all 16 of his points in the second half.
The Wildcats ended their second trip to the tournament in the same fashion as the first six years ago, losing in the second round.
They put up a good fight against the more tournament-tested Bruins and had a chance until going cold from the field late in the game.
The key moment came in the final two minutes when Adem Bona blocked a drive by Audige, sending UCLA out in transition. David Singleton hit the 3-pointer that put the Bruins up 62-56 with 1:50 to play.
UCLA controlled the game early, contesting nearly every shot and neutralizing Northwestern's high-scoring backcourt of Buie and Audige.
Jaquez fueled a 12-2 run midway through the half to build up an 11-point lead, getting a steal and dunk followed by another dunk in transition following a blocked shot by Kenneth Nwuba.
Buie finally made his first basket of the game with a drive just before the buzzer to cut UCLA's lead to 35-25 at the break.
Audige got going in the second half with 14 points in the first eight minutes after being held scoreless before the break. The Wildcats tied it at 45 when Buie was credited with a basket on a goaltending call midway through the half.
The game remained close from there until the end.
CBS 2's Matt Zahn reported the Wildcats locker room was as emotional as any he has ever visited. They put up a heck of a fight in the second half, but in the end, it just wasn't quite enough.
"I'm proud of this team. Every moment that I've spent with this team, I'm proud of it – every single step," Nicholson said. "Only one team gets to be happy in the end, and we've had our joy. We've had our ups and downs throughout the year. I'm just proud of us - how far we made it this year – everything that we've done, everything we've achieved, everything we've done for Northwestern."
"I could not have been prouder of my guys. I think as a coach, all you really ask for is your guys to leave it on the floor, you know, and give everything they have – emotionally, physically, with their communication – and we did all that," said Collins.
"You know, I'm feeling so much gratitude. I mean, it's why I came back – to be in this locker room. Ideally, we'd want to be moving on, but you know, you've got to give credit to UCLA," said Northwestern forward Robbie Beran.
"We had our whole hearts into winning this tournament, and we really believed, you know, other people didn't believe," Buie said. "So we're just going to go back, get rest, and you know, figure it out later – but our hearts were left out on the floor tonight."
"Last summer, six months ago, they came and they just said, 'Look, we're going to the tournament, and you guys just follow us, follow the coaches – and we'll make it happen," said Northwestern guard Ty Berry. "And so just believing in that and seeing that unveil, it gives me hope that these next couple years will be beneficial."
All the players who will be returning next year talked about the fire to get back to the NCAA Tournament, and what they learned from the veterans.
Northwestern: The Wildcats followed up their first tournament appearance with losing records the next five seasons. Coach Chris Collins got them back into second place in the Big Ten in the regular season and now looks to build from there.
UCLA: Bona returned after missing the last two games with a left shoulder injury. He aggravated the injury on a dunk in the second half and went to the bench immediately but did return to the game and had the key block late. His presence will be key next weekend.
UCLA is two wins shy of its 20th Final Four appearance.
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