UCLA holds off Texas A&M 53-49 in a thriller

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Those UCLA Bruins keep finding more drama and ways to win in the closing seconds.

Darren Collison scored the go-ahead basket on a one-handed layin with 9 1/2 seconds remaining, Josh Shipp blocked Donald Sloan’s final drive and the West Region’s No. 1 seed held on for a 53-49 victory over Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night.

The Bruins (33-3) won their 12th in a row and will face Western Kentucky or San Diego next week in Phoenix.

Urged on by 17,600 pro-UCLA fans that made it seem like a home game, the Bruins rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half.

Kevin Love had 19 points and 11 rebounds—his 21st double-double—and UCLA overcame the combined 3-of-14 shooting of Shipp and Russell Westbrook. Love also blocked eight shots.

Sloan led the Aggies (25-11) with 12 points and Josh Carter added 10. A&M was trying to get back to the final 16 for the second straight year. Instead, the Aggies fell to 7-10 in NCAA tourney games and 0-4 against UCLA.

Collison led UCLA with 21 points, including 14 in the first half when he didn’t miss a shot from the field, line or 3-point range.

Love, the newcomer to NCAA tourney pressure, and Collison, the wily veteran of consecutive Final Four appearances, dominated the final 3 minutes. Love converted consecutive turnaround jumpers—one tied it at 45 and the other gave the Bruins their first lead since late in the first half.

But Joseph Jones, who bumped and clawed with Love in the post most of the game, got in front of the Pac-10 Player of the Year and scored A&M’s first field goal in nearly 10 minutes to tie it at 47.

The first of Collison’s two one-handed layins put the Bruins back in front by two with 55 seconds left. Sloan tied it for the final time at 49 before Collison floated in another one-hander, furiously pounding his chest as the crowd exploded with 9 1/2 seconds left.

Shipp was credited with the block on Sloan’s desperate drive, and Westbrook punctuated the comeback with a fastbreak dunk at the buzzer that triggered a huge celebration on one bench and sadness on the other.

The game provided all of the drama that was missing in UCLA’s 41-point opening win over Mississippi Valley State.

The Aggies outscored the Bruins 27-11 over both halves, including 8-0 and 7-0 runs, for a 36-26 lead. Carter opened the second half with a 3-pointer, then his jumper hit the side of the backboard and went in before Jones scored around Love to give the Aggies their largest lead.

That’s when UCLA rallied with a 17-8 run. Love scored seven, Collison hit his fifth 3-pointer over 7-foot DeAndre Jordan and Westbrook scored four in a row—his first points of the game—to cut it to 44-43 with 5:51 remaining.

Even as the Bruins were scratching their way back, they were missing shots and committing some of their 14 turnovers. But the Aggies had their own problems, with Jordan and Carter picking up their third fouls at the same time.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute returned for the Bruins after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. He was clearly rusty, with a team-high eight turnovers and four fouls.

First-year A&M coach Mark Turgeon had predicted the first team to 50 would win. It just wasn’t his.