Bruins still at the ball
UCLA defeats No. 2 seed Colorado State 77-68
Posted: Wednesday March 24, 1999 11:08 PM
LOS ANGELES (CNN/SI) -- UCLA point guard Erica Gomez sprained her right ankle 25 seconds into the game and didn't return. But the Bruins still didn't have trouble defeating second-seeded Colorado State 77-68 Saturday.
UCLA, the No. 3 seed in the West Region, advanced to the Elite Eight to play Louisiana Tech on Monday.
Janae Hubbard stepped up for the Bruins, scoring 21 points and pulling down 13 rebounds, and Melanie Pearson came off the bench to score 15 of her 17 points in the final 13:07.
"They beat us in an area where we're just not very strong," Rams coach Tom Collen said. "We couldn't push them out of the lane no matter how hard we tried."
The Bruins (26-7) advanced to their first NCAA regional final Monday night against top-seeded Louisiana Tech, a 73-52 winner over Louisiana State earlier Saturday at the Sports Arena.
"That was one of the reasons I came to UCLA," junior forward Maylana Martin said. "I could have gone to Stanford or another school with a bigger name, but it makes it that much more special that this is the first time [in a regional final] for UCLA."
The Rams (33-3) attempted a West Regional record 34 3-pointers and made 11, one short of the regional record. The old mark for attempts was 27 by Southern California against Texas Tech in a 1993 semifinal.
Katie Cronin led Colorado State with 24 points, including six 3-pointers, and standout guard Becky Hammon added 21 in the final game of both seniors' careers.
"There wasn't a point in the game where I thought we were going to lose," Hammon said. "We were going to fight until the end and we did."
Hubbard's 6-foot-4 inside presence helped the Bruins dominate the boards, 52-36. Martin, the other stalwart of UCLA's post game, added 16 rebounds.
Colorado State had just one player taller than 6 feet -- 6-2 Shannon Randles -- to contend with Hubbard and the 6-3 Martin.
"We were fighting them down there, but you can't push Hubbard too far," Cronin said. "They knew if they pounded it inside they would win, and they did."
A teary-eyed Gomez watched her teammates from the bench after she was fitted with a knee-high walking boot. Gomez got a piggyback ride off the court at game's end from teammate Carly Funicello.
"Erica doesn't do too much scoring for us. She's more of a passer," Martin said. "I knew it was up to me to make sure the team didn't freak out with Erica out."
Freshman Michelle Greco provided a steady presence running the offense for 39 minutes in Gomez' absence.
"We don't really consider her a freshman anymore. She loves the pressure," UCLA coach Kathy Olivier said. "The bigger the game, the better she plays."
A basket by Heather Haanen brought the Rams within one for the fifth time in the second half before Pearson singlehandedly took over. She scored nine straight points to give UCLA its first double-digit lead of the game, 52-42, with 9:42 remaining.
Pearson's second 3-pointer put the Bruins ahead by 11. Hammon answered with a 3 before Pearson was fouled at UCLA's end. She made the first free throw and missed the second, but Hubbard stormed in, grabbed the rebound and scored to keep the Bruins up 59-48 with 6:58 remaining.
Colorado State closed within three on a basket by Cronin with 2:42 remaining. UCLA's Marie Philman was fouled and missed both free throws, but Hubbard got fouled going for the rebound and made one free throw to keep the Bruins ahead 67-63.
Cronin hit a 3-pointer to draw Colorado State within one with 2:13 remaining, but UCLA scored the next seven points and the Rams didn't make another field goal the rest of the way.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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