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Final Two: Bruins, Gators

Sun., April 2, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS – The UCLA defense had blocked his final shot and he had committed his final foul. Wearily, Glen Davis plopped down on the bench and shook his head.

Oh, Baby, can the Bruins play defense.

Throw some offense in there on the same night and not even LSU and its 6-foot-9, 310-pound star, the guy known as “Big Baby,” had a chance. The Bruins shut Davis down Saturday en route to a 59-45 victory over the Tigers that put them one win away from their 12th national men’s basketball title.

“They came out and punched us and we didn’t recover from it,” Davis said.

The last step in the quest to hang another banner at Pauley Pavilion comes Monday in the final against Florida.

The Bruins (32-6) go in feeling good, and not really caring that their wins aren’t always the most beautiful.

“We’re capable of scoring,” forward Cedrick Bozeman said. “People get so caught up into the ugliness of the games because other teams are not scoring.”

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute led UCLA with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting. He also had nine rebounds, two steals and plenty of help.

Lorenzo Mata was strong in the middle, capping Davis at least twice, sending him to the floor a few other times and generally driving him nuts. Big Baby huffed and puffed and sweated his way up and down the court, ending his night and his season several pounds and one championship dream lighter.

He shot 5 for 17, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and was serenaded with chants of “Ba-by, Ba-by” by the UCLA fans after he took a frustration foul on Bruins guard Darren Collison early in the second half, trailing by 23.

“My back hurts right now, you can tell,” Mbah A Moute said when asked what it feels like to lean on Davis for an entire game. “He’s big. I mean, he’s going to be in the NBA. He’s a great player.”

But not good enough in this one.

LSU shot 16 for 50, 32 percent, and didn’t make a 3-pointer. The 45 points for LSU were the second-lowest total in the Final Four since the NCAA adopted the shot clock in 1986. That matched UCLA’s defensive effort against Memphis in the regional championship game.

Bruins forward Alfred Aboya set the tone early in the first half when he swatted Darrel Mitchell’s shot into the stands, then glowered at Mitchell as he fell to the floor. A few minutes later, Mbah a Moute stepped into an LSU passing lane for a steal that led to a bucket for Collison.

On offense, the Bruins were just as good, especially early. They made three of their first four 3-pointers and shot 58 percent in the first half to push their lead to as many as 16, 3 1/2 minutes before the break.

The start of the second half put it out of reach.

Mbah a Moute dunked twice, Ryan Hollins took an alley-oop from Jordan Farmar for another slam, then Farmar threw one up from 28 feet with the shot clock going off and swished it for a 48-27 lead. He celebrated by pounding his chest, taunting the LSU fans as he ran to the other end. Most of the purple-and-gold crowd simply sat there stoically – they knew a mismatch when they saw one.

LSU (27-9) remained winless in its four appearances at the Final Four, spanning a half-century, and a special season that provided a needed distraction from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina down in Louisiana ended on a low note.

Led by Davis and tall, lanky forward Tyrus Thomas, the Tigers, too, prided themselves on monster D this season. They made UCLA look less-than-perfect – forcing 17 turnovers and a fair amount of ugly offense – but few will remember the Bruins’ flaws from this one.

More will remember how hard Davis had to work to get so little. He put up most of his points after the game was a blowout. He looked nothing like the juggernaut who helped John Brady’s team to upsets over Duke and Texas in the Atlanta Regional last week.

The sophomore center made a pair of free throws with 11:03 left in the game to finally push the Tigers past the 30-point mark, then on his next trip down missed from close range, got his own rebound and forced one in to set up a three-point play. The whole sequence left him panting as he pounded the ball onto the floor – a mild success on an otherwise frustrating evening.

“One key tonight, and we didn’t see this as well on tape, was their phsyicalness,” Brady said.

Davis fouled out with 2:09 left and clapped his hands as he headed toward the bench, then exchanged hugs with his teammates.

Tasmin Mitchell scored 12 points for the Tigers. Darrel Mitchell was held to eight.


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