Assessing the reasons for top-ranked UCLA’s 89-78 NCAA men’s basketball championship victory over Arkansas on Monday night, many pointed to the Bruins’ dominating rebounding.
Or the Bruins’ ability to turn Arkansas’ pressure defense into a fast-breaking development at the offensive end.
Or their resiliency in overcoming the loss of guard Tyus Edney, whose sprained wrist limited him to less than 3 minutes of playing time.
Or the contributions of Ed O’Bannon (30 points, 17 rebounds), Charles O’Bannon (11 points, nine rebounds), George Zidek (14 points, suffocating defense on Corliss Williamson), Cameron Dollar (dandy pinch-hit performance for Edney), and freshman Toby Bailey (26 gravity-defying points).
Or you could simply let Ed O’Bannon, voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, take the microphone.
“We whupped ‘em,” he said, looking out beneath a championship hat. “It’s as simple as that.”
Convincingly dethroning the defending champions in front of 38,540 at the Kingdome, UCLA (31-2) revisited the NCAA winners’ circle for the first time in 20 years.
The Razorbacks, who finished 32-7, were beaten on hustle plays all night. Forwards Williamson and Scotty Thurman were 5 of 25 from the field and combined for just 17 points and seven rebounds. Those two are usually good for 35 points and 11.5 rebounds.
Coach Nolan Richardson, who denied rumors that he has been approached to coach the new NBA franchise in Toronto, said his Razorbacks “looked like we were playing in mud, we weren’t as active as we’ve been.”
Arkansas had only one true spurt, scoring 10 points in the span of 67 seconds to lead 12-5. UCLA had four turnovers, one immediately after Dollar entered. Edney, who hurt his right wrist in the first half of Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State, started, but tipped his hand that he was ailing when his first dribbles were initiated with his left hand.
Dollar responded, however, and the Bruins began dicing the Hogs’ pressure, sometimes with rapid passing.
“Most teams get by us a couple times, but not every team has capitalized on us when they break the press,” Thurman said.
“It’s hard to press a really good basketball team,” UCLA coach Jim Harrick said. “Our whole plan was to receive the ball and attack.”
Bailey was particularly attackminded. After some jittery opening minutes, he erupted for 12 points as UCLA took a 40-39 lead at the half.
UCLA moved in front 48-42 when Bailey used his spring-loaded legs to put back two of his misses.
Ed O’Bannon’s three-point play on a hanging layup and Bailey’s reverse slam made it 55-45 with 15:30 to go.
After another Bailey putback gave UCLA a 12-point lead, Arkansas wedged back within 67-63. The Bruins sealed it with a 10-2 run as Ed O’Bannon and Bailey each contributed four points.
“They (Hogs players) started talking to me, saying, ‘You’re just a freshman; this is just luck,”’ Bailey said. “They might have overlooked me. This team has so many weapons, people aren’t going to key on a freshman.”
Williamson could not navigate Zidek’s 7-foot, 250-pound frame, finishing 3 of 16 from the floor.
“I got too caught up in the physical play,” said Williamson, a junior All-American, who is expected to pass up his senior season for the pros. “I could have taken a couple of turnaround jump shots, but today I tried to play power.”
Zidek was just too big for the 6-7, 245-pound Williamson.
“I saw Arkansas so many times on TV I was pretty familiar with the way he plays,” Zidek said. “I wanted to make him shoot every shot over me.”
UCLA had 50 rebounds, 21 offensive. Arkansas, which was led by Clint McDaniel’s 16 points, had 31 and 12.
The Hogs’ depth had little effect on the outcome. UCLA was limited to six players with Edney on the bench, but the Bruins were running and dunking and following their own misses to the final buzzer.
“This is one of the finest conditioned basketball teams, probably ever,” Harrick said. “We could play two right now if we wanted to.”
Just don’t expect Arkansas to volunteer for another drubbing.
“Tonight UCLA was the best basketball team,” Richardson said. “No question.”
UCLA 89, Arkansas 78
Thurman 2-9 0-0 5, Williamson 3-16 6-10 12, Martin 1-2 0-0 3, McDaniel 5-10 3-4 16, Beck 4-6 1-2 11, Stewart 5-10 1-2 12, Dillard 2-4 0-0 6, Robinson 2-3 0-0 4, Rimac 1-1 0-0 2, Wilson 3-4 1-2 7, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Garrett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-65 12-20 78.
C.O’Bannon 4-10 3-4 11, E.O’Bannon 10-21 9-11 30, Zidek 5-8 4-7 14, Edney 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey 12-20 1-2 26, Dollar 1-4 4-5 6, Henderson 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 33-68 21-29 89.
Halftime-UCLA 40, Arkansas 39. 3-Point goals-Arkansas 10-28 (McDaniel 3-7, Beck 2-3, Dillard 2-3, Martin 1-2, Stewart 1-5, Thurman 1-7, Robinson 0-1), UCLA 2-7 (Bailey 1-2, E.O’Bannon 1-4, Dollar 0-1). Fouled out-McDaniel. Rebounds- Arkansas 31 (Stewart 5), UCLA 50 (E.O’Bannon 17). Assists- Arkansas 15 (Williamson 6), UCLA 21 (Dollar 8). Total fouls- Arkansas 22, UCLA 15. A-38,540.
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