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March 25, 2007

On fire & misfired: Stolen away

On fire : UCLA's Arron Afflalo was 5-for-22 in his previous two tournament games but made up for it by taking over against Kansas. The Jayhawks took an early lead, mainly because the Bruins turned the ball over 10 times in the first 12 minutes. The Jayhawks dictated the tempo, but Afflalo was there to dictate the result of the game. He put UCLA ahead 30-29 with a jump shot, extended the lead with a basket on a fast break and put Kansas further into a hole with a nice pass to Josh Shipp. The assist resulted in a 3-pointer that gave UCLA a 35-31 lead at the half. Afflalo carried that into the second half with 15 points after the break, scoring just about every way possible. He hit jumpers, posted up and hit two 3-pointers as the shot clock expired. He also played excellent perimeter defense in the 68-55 win.

Misfired : UCLA couldn't afford to sit back in the second half despite a comfortable lead. Kansas put enough pressure on the Bruins to keep them from getting too cozy. If the Jayhawks had someone other than Brandon Rush scoring, Kansas could be in the Final Four. True, UCLA is one of the best defensive teams in the nation. However, Kansas is also one of the most talented teams. For all of his prowess on the defensive side of the court, Mario Chalmers (six steals) struggled on the offensive side. The sophomore was 1-for-8 from the floor and had seven turnovers. Julian Wright had only eight points and Sherron Collins was scoreless.

On fire : The second half didn't quite measure up to the first for UCLA and Kansas, but that's partly because the first half provided plenty of fireworks. Afflalo gave UCLA a boost at the end of the half and Brandon Rush, unstoppable in the last two games, scored 11 points in the first half as the game went back and forth with steals and fast breaks.

On fire : Theft. Kansas isn't the only team that can play an aggressive style of defense. The Jayhawks had 17 steals, but UCLA wasn't far behind with 15.

Misfired : Kansas played at its fast pace in the first half with eight steals and five blocks early. But rather than taking a commanding lead, Kansas struggled to finish. The Jayhawks were 14 of 30 from the field in the first half, but that disguised Kansas' inability to score close to the basket. UCLA contested Kansas' shots in the lane throughout the first half, allowing the Bruins to take the lead on a 14-4 run.

Sunday's Top Performers
Double-doubles
Taj Gibson, USC, 17 points, 11 rebounds
Carl Landry, Purdue, 18 points, 10 rebounds
Antonio Anderson, Memphis, 14 points, 10 rebounds
Randal Falker, Southern Illinois, 10 points, 12 rebounds
Scoring
Jeremy Hunt, Memphis, 26
Arron Afflalo, UCLA, 24
Ron Lewis, Ohio State, 22
Mike Conley Jr., Ohio State, 19
Brandon Rush, Kansas, 18
Greg Oden, Ohio State, 17
Rebounding
Robert Dozier, Memphis, 11
Greg Oden, Ohio State, 9
Assists
Mario Chalmers, Kansas, 7
Josh Shipp, UCLA, 5
Jamar Butler, Ohio State, 4
Antonio Anderson, Memphis, 4
David Lighty, Ohio State, 3
Blocks/Steals
Mario Chalmers, Kansas, 6 steals
Darren Collison, UCLA, 5 steals
Josh Shipp, UCLA, 4 steals
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA, 4 steals
On fire : Ohio State center Greg Oden hadn't played up to his 7-foot stature so far in this tournament, but that all changed in the second half of the 92-76 win over Memphis. He was on and off the bench in foul trouble, allowing Memphis to take the lead after a 10-2 run. But when Oden returned, he came to life on both sides of the floor. Blocking shots, getting dunks and disrupting the Memphis offense, Oden turned the game around for the Buckeyes. He finished with 17 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes.

On fire : For the third consecutive game, Ohio State showed its cool under pressure in the second half. The Buckeyes didn't need to make up a 20-point deficit as it did in the Sweet 16 against Tennessee, but Memphis was able to build a five-point lead midway through the second half. The Buckeyes did all the right things to build a comeback. They limit turnovers (they had eight against Memphis) and hit free throws (they hit 18 in a row).

Misfired : Ohio State could have built a big lead in the first half after getting good looks at 3-pointers, but it couldn't convert. The Buckeyes missed their first six 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Memphis shook a cold start (0-for-7 from the field, three turnovers) by hitting from long range. The Tigers hit seven shots from beyond the arc in the first half, led by Jeremy Hunt.

Misfired : Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts provided a major spark with 15 points against Texas A&M after leaving the second-round game with a sprained ankle. He couldn't do the same against Ohio State. He wasn't much of a factor in the first half. He finished with 14 points, mostly during a spurt in the second half when he drove into the lane. The senior knew he didn't have his best day. He was emotional when he returned to the bench after fouling out in the final two and a half minutes.

Misfired : The matchup between Joey Dorsey and Oden seemed like it lasted for maybe a half dozen possessions. Both were in foul trouble early. But where Oden took over the game, Dorsey disappeared. He didn't hit a shot from the floor (on no attempts, no less) and missed both of his free throws. The final stat line: zero points, three rebounds, four fouls. Ugly.



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