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Determined, confident Memphis beats UCLA 78-63

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Memphis guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose didn't seem to care which UCLA defender was in their way Saturday night.

They were determined and confident they could get by him.

They did … getting themselves to Monday night's NCAA championship game.

Douglas-Roberts and Rose combined for 53 points against the Bruins, one of the nation's stingiest, most physical defenses, for a convincing 78-63 win at the Alamodome.

The Tigers (38-1), the top seed from the South Region, are in the final game for just the second time in their history and first time since 1973.

"Every game we expect to play really well," said Douglas-Roberts, who scored a game-high 28. "We play off of each other. (There's) no selfishness anywhere. Whoever has it going, has it going."

Against the Bruins (35-4), the top seed from the West Region and in the Final Four for a third straight time, he and Rose had it going pretty well.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed to get all the way here and lose," said UCLA coach Ben Howland, whose Bruins lost in the finale and then the semifinals to Florida the past two years. "But you have to give credit to Memphis. They're a very, very good basketball team … and their guard play was really, really good."

The Bruins have a pretty good backcourt with junior point guard Darren Collison, a third-team All-American, and sophomore Russell Westbrook. But Collison is just 6 feet, 160 pounds, and he had to contain 6-3, 205 Rose, a freshman who has been playing with poise. If UCLA moved 6-3 Westbrook on Rose, that left Collison on 6-7 Douglas-Roberts or 6-6 Antonio Anderson.

"Our backcourt is kind of crazy because if you put your best defender on Chris, it really leaves me the option to do what I want to do, and if your best guard is on me, there's not too many people in college who are Chris' size who can guard him," said Rose, who had 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists. "It's real hard guarding us."

But coach John Calipari's offensive strategy wasn't as simple as exploiting a mismatch.

"We were trying to get our guys to beat people off the dribble," he said, adding he told his players, "Don't let them chest you and body you and bump you; that's when they're at their best."

The Bruins, anchored in back by 6-10 freshman Kevin Love, a first-team All-American, entered allowing an average of 58.5 points, ninth in the nation. They had been even better in the NCAA Tournament, allowing an average of just 53.2 points.

But they couldn't keep the Tigers in front of them.

"They're two great players," said Westbrook, who led the Bruins with a career-high 22 points. "They came out and were ready to play tonight. It really showed."

The Tigers defense wasn't too shabby, either. It held Love to 12 points, nearly six below his average, and Collison had a season-low two points on 1-of-9 shooting.

Still, the Bruins were down only 59-52 with the large contingent of UCLA fans on their feet urging a comeback. That's when Douglas-Roberts drove the right baseline and elevated over Love for a left-handed dunk that re-ignited his team with 4:52 left. The Tigers hit all 10 of their free throws (20-of-23 overall) to close it.

"The reality of it is my team played inspired, but they also played with a smile on their face, they played with the confidence level I want," Calipari said. "I keep telling them, whichever team is having the most fun is going to win this thing."

Memphis 78, UCLA 63

Determined, confident Memphis beats UCLA 78-63 04/05/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 6, 2008 12:13am]

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