SMU rallies but loses to UCLA 60-59 on rare 3-pointer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — SMU’s locker room was eerily quiet, with team managers folding jerseys and clothes in the middle as players sat at their stalls trying to digest the ending of a heartbreaking 60-59 loss to UCLA.
Finding words was difficult, and junior guard Nic Moore warned a reporter not to approach him for comment.
“I’m not talking to nobody, so you might as well not even come over this way,” Moore said Thursday as he ripped the nameplate from above his locker as a keepsake from his first NCAA Tournament appearance.
As UCLA’s Bryce Alford let fly with a 3-pointer that appeared offline, the sixth-seeded Mustangs seemed headed for a hard-fought victory and something to cherish.
Mustangs center Yanick Moreira appeared to time his leap just right in going up for Alford’s shot. But officials determined it was too quick and called him for goaltending, awarding the basket to Alford in what turned out to be the game- winning shot.
“As a senior you can’t make that mistake,” Moreira said. “Maybe I should have let the ball hit the rim and then get the rebound.
“I take the blame myself and I would like to apologize to these guys that worked so hard to be here.”
SMU (27-7) shot just 36 percent and was nearly down and out with a 44-35 deficit midway through the second half. But one 3-pointer by Moore changed the Mustangs’ mood before he added two more to change the momentum.
When the run was done 6½ minutes later, SMU had a 53-44 lead and all the energy.
Alford snatched it right back in the final 3:40 with four 3-pointers, including the deciding shot that was his worst all night. It followed a costly turnover by Cannen Cunningham, one of several weird events SMU coach Larry Brown mentioned.
“I can’t remember anything quite like this one because we put in Cannen at the end,” he said. “He’s a reliable free throw shooter and a senior, and he turned it over. Yanick is just making an emotional play, but I’ve never seen a play end like that.
“When you consider these kids and what they’ve been through and all the neat things, (what) they’ve done to get our program to this point, it’s pretty tough any way you look at it.”
The Mustangs had two shots to win in the final seconds, but Moore missed a 3-pointer and then a 2-point attempt, sending the 11th-seeded Bruins (21-13) into a wild celebration.
Alford scored 27 points on nine 3-pointers for the Bruins, a team many thought didn’t even belong in the field of 68. They advanced to Saturday’s round of 32 against No. 14 seed UAB, an upset winner over No. 3 seed Iowa State.
The Bruins’ win was a fitting answer for critics of UCLA’s record and tournament worthiness.
Meanwhile, SMU’s first tournament appearance since 1993 ended with some players walking around in disbelief and others pounding the court in frustration and disappointment. The loss spoiled Brown’s first college postseason since leading Kansas to the 1988 title.
That it came against a UCLA squad the Hall of Famer coached to the 1980 championship game before the Bruins lost to Louisville was yet another twist. Then again, the Bruins came in with something to prove and showed it even when the game seemed to slip away from them.
Alford kept that from happening with a play officials said was not reviewable. In fact, the only question was whether it was a 3 or a 2-point shot.
He had no doubt about the game-changing call.
“I had a pretty good look at it because I shot it,” he said. “From my angle, I saw Kevon (Looney) and another player going after it, and I was confused because he went up and grabbed it on its way to the rim.
“I don’t know if it would have gone in or not, but he definitely grabbed it on the way.”
Norman Powell added 19 points for the Bruins.
UCLA: The Bruins shot 43 percent from the field, including 10 of 20 on 3-pointers, and outrebounded the Mustangs 34-33.
SMU: Markus Kennedy had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Mustangs, who finished at 36 percent from the field.
UCLA: Faces UAB on Saturday.
SMU: Season over.
AP Freelance Writer Josh Abner contributed to this report.