Daniel Whye scored four points and grabbed a key rebound in the final minutes as 12th-seeded Detroit beat UCLA 56-53 Thursday night in the opening round of the NCAA tournament's South Regional.
The Titans scored nine consecutinve points in the second half to erase a 40-31 deficit and then hit key free throws down the stretch for the victory.
Detroit (25-5) will play Ohio State (24-8) in one of Saturday's semifinals at the RCA Dome. Top-seeded Auburn (28-3) takes on Oklahoma State (23-10) in the opener.
Jermaine Jackson had 17 points and Rashad Phillips 16 for Detroit, which survived going seven minutes without a field goal in the first half and five minutes in the second half.
"This was not only a great game for our team. It was a great game for any so-called Cinderella team. We gave everything we had to produce results," said Bacari Alexander, who contributed three steals to an aggressive defense that troubled UCLA all night.
"We love the half-court gridiron defense we play," Alexander said.
Whye hit two free throws to give Detroit a 49-48 lead with 1:53 to go.
Baron Davis, who led UCLA with 16 points, gave the Bruins their final lead five seconds later and then fouled out with 1:19 to play.
"Davis fouling out was devastating at that time of the game," said UCLA coach Steve Lavin, who had to look elsewhere for scoring with his leading scorer out of the game.
Phillips put Detroit ahead to stay by hitting two free throws following the foul by Davis. Jerome Moiso missed a jumper for the Bruins and Whye pulled down the rebound.
After a 20-second timeout, Whye hit a jumper and the Titans wrapped up the victory by hitting three ore free throws in the final four seconds.
"In the first half we were shooting the jump shot and transitioning back which is why we didn't go far," Jackson said. "In the second half I smelled blood for whoever was guarding me. I had to go to my strength and that is driving to the basket."
JaRon Rush closed out the scoring for UCLA by hitting a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds to go as the Bruins finished with a season-low point total.
The 3-point play and a tight defense seemed like it would pay off for UCLA (22-9) until Detroit's final spurt. The Bruins also hurt themselves by only hitting 5-of-12 free throws.
The Bruins were 10-for-27 from behind the arc and only 9-for-23 inside. UCLA, which was ousted from the tournament in the opening round for the third time since 1994, was also hurt by 17 turnovers.
The Bruins never got their game in gear against Detroit's aggressive defense. UCLA was leading 32-30 at the break.
Detroit led 20-14 following a jumper by Phillips with 10:16 left in the half. The Titans then missed 10 consecutive shots from the field while UCLA put together a 10-1 run. Jerome Moiso's jumper began the run for the Bruins.
Detroit's only point in the run came on a free throw by Alexander with 4:01 to go. Jermaine Jackson later hit a jumper with 3:19 left to cut the deficit to 24-23.
Detroit, ranked second in the nation in scoring defense behind Princeton, won despite shooting 33 percent from the field. UCLA wasn't much better at 38 percent.
The meeting was the first between the schools. Detroit, the Midwestern Collegiate Conference regular-season and tournament champion, is in the tournament for only the fifth time. It has never advanced past the second round - a sharp difference between the history of the Bruins.
Detroit had fallen behind by nine at the start of the second half when it missed its first four shots and had three turnovers to start the period. Their first field goal of the second half came on a 3-pointer by Phillips with 14:17 to play.
"We really felt that when we were down by nine and coach looked at us, the way he always looks at us when we down and struggling, we had to come out like soldiers," Jackson said.
"Neither team was really tearing the nets up. They are one of the better defensive teams in the nation. It was kind of what we expected, two teams beating each other up," Lavin said. "We expected a grind it out, hard-fought battle and that's what we got."
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