UCLA's Malcolm Lee splits the Michigan St. defense of Delvon Roe (l.), and Draymond Green. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Final Score: UCLA 78 Michigan St. 76
After comfortably controlling most of the game, UCLA withstood a Michigan St. rally in which the Spartans outscored the Bruins 35-13, closing from a 23 point deficit to within 1 point with 8 seconds left on Keith Appling's third thee pointer in the charge.
The Bruins had built what they thought was a comfortable 18 point, 42-24 lead at the halftime, only to see the Spartans, who made it to the final four the last two seasons, fight back within 10 points. A 15-2 UCLA run might have led the Bruins to believe that they had the 100th. NCAA Tournament win in their storied history sewn up.
The Spartans responded with a number of three pointers, while UCLA made only two baskets from the field in the last 8 minutes of the game, and also missed 9 free throws in the last 4 minutes. The Bruins went over 3 minutes without any points during the middle of the Michigan St. run.
Had UCLA been more consistent from the line, the Bruins could have coasted to the win, as they got to the line far more than Michigan St. UCLA connected on 30 of 47 trips to the line, compared to Michigan St.'s 16 of 21.
The Bruins also connected on just 4 of 11 three pointers, while the Spartans hit 10 of 25, including the three by Appling off the bench, which accounted for all of his points, and three more by Draymond Green, who was the game's leading scorer, with 23 points. 7 of the 10 were turned in during the Spartans' late run.
UCLA got 16 points from both Lee and Tyler Hunnicutt, 14 from Joshua Smith, and a 12 point, 10 rebound double double from Reeves Nelson.
It was another in a long line of less than complete Bruin efforts, where UCLA hasn't played up to their potential all game long, which will probably become a fatal flaw if oft repeated in their quest for a return to the final four, which would be their fourth under Coach Ben Howland, much less their 12th. title.
UCLA (23-10) moves on to face SEC regular season Champion Florida (27-7) on Saturday. The Gators, a second seed, beat UC Santa Barbara (18-14) the Big West Tournament winner, 79-51.
Michigan St. finished the season 19-15.