Comeback Bid Comes Up Short in Sacramento

Sacramento, Cal. – Try as Indiana might, the miracle didn't happen. After an abominable first-half shooting display seemingly left Indiana for dead, the Hoosiers scratched, clawed, and kicked – and scored - before eventually succumbing to UCLA 54-49 at Arco Arena.

Sacramento, Cal. – Try as Indiana might, the miracle didn't happen.

After an abominable first-half shooting display seemingly left Indiana for dead, the Hoosiers scratched, clawed, and kicked – and scored - before eventually succumbing to UCLA 54-49 at Arco Arena.

With the win UCLA (28-5) advances to next weekend's West Regional in San Jose, while Indiana (21-11) returns to Bloomington, it's season complete.

The Hoosiers appeared destined for a return flight to Indiana long before the final horn sounded. Coach Kelvin Sampson's squad appeared finished when they found themselves down 13 with 5:31 remaining. But after an evening that featured only 13 first-half Hoosier points and 25 misses in their first 30 attempts from the floor, Indiana couldn't miss for a 4 ½ minute stretch and eventually tied the game at 49-49 with 1:00 remaining.

Down 46-33 with 5:15 remaining, Earl Calloway hit a free throw, and Lance Stemler added a 3-pointer to cut the lead to nine. Rod Wilmont then knocked down an NBA-distance trey to whittle the margin down to six at the 3:27 mark. Stemler turned the game into a one-possession contest with another three with 2:37 on the clock.

All the while, Sampson was using his team's allotment of timeouts to try to get his team to focus one trip down the floor at a time.

"When we were calling the timeouts after made baskets, you want your kids to really focus on the next possession," Sampson said. "We were down 12, then six, then two."

UCLA point guard Darren Collison – who finished with a game-high 15 points - pushed the lead back to four with a free throw, but Rod Wilmont answered with a 12-foot bank to cut the margin to two with 1:46 left. Arron Afflalo responded with a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to four, but Indiana tied it on its next possession.

Stemler hoisted a 3-pointer from the right wing, but was fouled in the process by Alfred Aboya in the process. Stemler made the first two free throws and missed the third, but D.J. White came up with one of his game-high 14 rebounds, tipping the ball back out to Stemler. IU reset and Earl Calloway curled and then drove the lane and lofted a lay-up off the glass for his 12th point of the game that tied the contest at 49-49 with 1:00 remaining.

But the improbable comeback unraveled in the final minute. For the second time in a minute, Afflalo took the game in his hands, driving hard to the bucket and drawing a foul. Unfazed by an uncharacteristic 2-of-11 effort from the field on the night, Afflalo made both free throws, giving IU the ball down two with :38.1 remaining.

But IU's opportunity for a potential game-tying or winning shot never came. Facing full court pressure, Stemler twice had passes deflected by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute along the baseline. Then, when IU had to in-bounds the ball in front of the UCLA bench, Stemler led Calloway too far and Collison came up with the steal.

"Our inbounds play is 11 - we call it 11 when we get pressure," Sampson said. "We had a similar situation against Illinois and ran the same thing…Give UCLA credit. They defended it well. You'd like to get that in and see what you can do. (We had a) chance to tie it or take the lead."

Stemler's task wasn't made any easier by the Mbah a Moute's seven-foot wingspan or a bench full of Bruins who did what they could to distract him.

"We were all screaming in his ear," said UCLA Coach Ben Howland. "That really sealed the deal after a great comeback by Indiana."

Collison hit both free throws to push the lead back to four. Armon Bassett missed a layup on the other end, Wilmont missed a desperation 3-pointer after IU corralled the rebound, and IU's chance to advance to next weekend's San Jose regional was thwarted.

After shooting just 17.9 percent in the opening half, Indiana bounced back with a 12-of-24 effort in the second half, including 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc. But the Hoosiers were eventually unable to overcome the woeful start from the field and a miserable effort from the free-throw line. After going 15-of-16 at the line in its first-round win against Gonzaga, the Hoosiers were just 10-of-21 against the Bruins.

The end result was a near miss and a painful loss to the Bruins.

"It was a very emotional locker room," Sampson said. "A lot of tears. But kids that don't cry don't invest. This team invested. I think back to our first two games against Lafayette and Butler and see how far we came. There's not a single kid that didn't improve. Every kid got better during the course of the year. But more importantly team got better.

"That's how close we were to getting to the Sweet Sixteen. Tie game 49-49, the ball can bounce a lot of different ways right there."

D. White 4-9 4-7 12, M. White 2-3 0-3 4, Bassett 1-7 0-0 3, Wilmont 3-10 1-1 8, Calloway 4-11 3-7 12, Ratliff 0-4 0-0 0, Stemler 3-6 2-3 10, Shaw 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 17-52 10-21 49.

Shipp 2-7 1-2 5, Mbah a Moute 1-7 5-7 7, Mata 4-6 0-0 8, Colison 4-8 6-7 15, Afflalo 2-11 6-7 10, Westbrook 2-3 0-0 4, Wright 0-0 0-0 0, Aboya 1-2 0-0 2, Keefe 0-0 0-0 0, Roll 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 17-47 18-24 54.

Halftime Score: UCLA 20, Indiana 13. 3-Pointers: Indiana 5-16 (Stemler 2-3, Wilmont 1-5, Bassett 1-4, Calloway 1-2, Ratliff 0-2), UCLA 2-9 (Collison 1-2, Roll 1-2, Shipp 0-2, Afflalo 0-3). Rebounds: Indiana 38 (D. White 14), UCLA 38 (Mbah a Moute 12). Assists: Indiana 8 (Calloway 5), UCLA 10 (Afflalo 3). Turnovers: Indiana 12, UCLA 10. Blocks: Indiana 4 (D. White 4), UCLA 2 (Shipp, Roll). Steals: Indiana 4, UCLA 6. Officials: Mark Whitehead, Brian O'Connell, Tony Greene. Attendance: 16,407 Top Stories