From Edney’s 4.8 coast-to-coast dash to the 1995 title to the Crying Game, UCLA basketball has had many NCAA Tournament highlights
By Chris Umpierre
Writing a UCLA top-10 tourney list including John Wooden-coached teams is too easy.
UCLA has had fewer NCAA Tournament memories since the Wizard of Westwood left, but there have still been moments — ahem, the 1995 national championship!
Here’s a Top-10 list from a guy lucky enough to cover UCLA hoops in 2000-01 and who went to two Final Fours, where — gulp! — the Bruins lost.
Without this basket, there is no 1995 NCAA Championship. Tyus Edney famously saved No. 1 UCLA with a 4.8-second, coast-to-coast dash vs. Missouri in the 1995 tourney. The drive is replayed every March. CBS puts it on a loop. Edney’s theatrics still give me goosebumps.
2. 1995 Title
So many moments to pick here. Cameron Dollar stepping in for an injured Edney. Senior Ed O’Bannon having the game of his life. Toby Bailey throwing down a reverse dunk to seal UCLA’s 11th national championship.
3. Crying Game
Oh, Adam Morrison. Everybody remembers Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison crying as UCLA made this incredible comeback in 2006. I remember the comeback. The Bruins end up scoring the final 11 points of this game! This win also helped fuel three straight trips to the NCAA Final Four.
Do those NCAA Final Four runs happen if Gonzaga wins? I don’t know. But what I do know is Gus Johnson is the best. His play-by-play here is incredible.
“After being down by 17, HEART BREAK CITY!!!!!!!!!!!!”
4. Oh, no. The Backdoor play
I still shudder when CBS shows this play every March. (Hey, I can’t write this list without mentioning Princeton). I don’t know what is more noteworthy about this game. 1) The ugly, low scoring affair 2) The fact that it’s Pete Carril’s last victory c) The textbook backdoor play. Whatever the case, No. 13 Princeton beat No. 4 UCLA 43-41 victory in the 1996 first round.
5. 2006 National Semifinals
UCLA beats Big Baby Davis and LSU in the 2006 national semifinals. The Bruins would lose to Florida in the title game, but let’s not talk about that.
6. 2008 Elite Eight
This turned out to be the apex of the Kevin Love-Russell Westbrook era. UCLA beats Xavier in the 2008 Elite Eight. I still remember where I was as I watched this game: I was covering a minor-league hockey game at hockey arena in Fort Myers. I don’t know how the gamer turned out that night- I was more interested in the Bruins.
7. 2007 Elite Eight
No. 1 UCLA beats No. 2 Kansas in the 2007 Elite Eight. It’s always great to beat the Jayhawks, especially in front of a pro-Kansas crowd and cheering Bill Walton in the stands.
8. The Cameron Dollar Game-Winner
What an underrated player. UCLA point guard Cameron Dollar comes through with a tear-dropper in the lane with 1.9 seconds left to lift the Bruins to an overtime victory over Iowa State in the 1997 regional semifinals. UCLA trailed this game by 16 points. Dollar finished with a career-high 20 points. I love the Irish accent on the announcer’s call on the game winner: Dolla!!!!!!!!!!!!!
9. Goaltending game
OK, so we got lucky here. Very lucky. First, we got into the tournament after being on the bubble. Second, SMU goaltends Bryce Alford’s three-pointer with 10.9 seconds remaining to gift No. 11 UCLA a 60-59 victory in the 2015 NCAA first round. Alford, whose “game winner” came from NBA distance, finishes the game with nine three-pointers. I love how he jumps into his brother’s arms after the final horn.
I had never seen a basketball game end this way. Never.
Alford’s quote after the game: “It’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me in the game of basketball,” he said.
10. Alley-Oop City
UCLA point guard Earl Watson threw alley-oop after alley-oop here. It was a dunk fest and the zenith of the Jaron Rush-Earl Watson era. Bigtime win vs. Maryland in the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament.