No. 11 UCLA pulls away to upset No. 2 Alabama in OT and advance to Elite Eight

Nick Bromberg
·4 min read

The Pac-12 will have three teams in the Elite Eight.

No. 11 UCLA held off multiple second-half comebacks from Alabama and had to go to overtime to upset the No. 2 Crimson Tide, 88-78, but will advance to play No. 1 Michigan on Tuesday night in the East region.

The game went to OT after Alabama's Alex Reese hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 65-65. UCLA didn't foul after going up three with 4.2 seconds left and Reese swished a wide-open look from way beyond the arc at the top of the key.

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But UCLA was able to not only keep the Crimson Tide at bay in overtime — the Bruins ran away with the game. UCLA scored the first seven points in the extra period and Alabama never led. Jaime Jaquez provided the dagger with 1:38 to go when he hit a contested three to put the Bruins up seven.

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The Bruins took an 11-point halftime lead thanks to some hot shooting on a few tricky 3-pointers in the first half. Alabama came back to tie the game after halftime and then made up a seven-point deficit minutes later. But UCLA was able to hang on and keep Alabama at bay again down the stretch despite Johnny Juzang fouling out with less than three minutes to go.

UCLA is the fifth team to advance from a play-in game to the Elite Eight. The Bruins had to beat Michigan State with a 14-point comeback on Thursday before the tournament to face BYU in the first round.

Alabama's poor free-throw shooting

Alabama was bad from behind the 3-point line. And the Crimson Tide were even worse at the free-throw line.

Alabama was just 11-of-25 at the line against the Bruins after shooting over 70% during the season. That's historically bad.

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Star guard Herb Jones exemplified those struggles late in regulation too.

Jones drew two fouls in the final 40 seconds of regulation while driving to the basket. He made just one of those four free throws as Alabama was trying to win the game in regulation. Those misses and the 11 others meant that the Crimson Tide needed that three from Reese — his only points of the game — to simply force the final five minutes of the game.

Alabama could have won the game in regulation with an average 3-point shooting night too. The Crimson Tide are one of the nation's most frequent 3-point shooting teams and were just 7-of-28 from range on the day. Alabama shot 10 points worse than it did during the regular season.

Those struggles from deep counteracted Alabama’s success inside the paint. Alabama shot 56% on twos and still shot better overall than UCLA did. But the Crimson Tide also turned the ball over six more times than the Bruins.

UCLA’s first Elite Eight since 2008

One of college basketball’s most storied programs is making its first Elite Eight appearance since 2008. UCLA hadn’t made it past the Sweet 16 since making it to the Final Four in back-to-back years in 2007 and 2008. Those UCLA teams contained players like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute — all players who had significant NBA careers.

This UCLA team barely got into the tournament. It was one of the last four at-large teams in the field by virtue of being in the play-in game and was down 40-26 late to Michigan State in the first half of that game. Without that massive comeback, UCLA is out of the tournament before it really began. Instead it’s one win away from the Final Four.

Jaquez is a big reason why. He finished the game with 17 points and his two threes came on awkward-looking shots that didn’t seem to have a prayer of going in. But both of those second-half shots came at vital moments for the Bruins as Alabama kept getting back into the game.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 28: The UCLA Bruins celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sweet Sixteen round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
UCLA players celebrate after beating Alabama in OT. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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