AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (Ticker) -- Iowa State is now officially a member of the elite.
The Cyclones continued their remarkable season by routing UCLA -- one of the nation's most storied programs -- and advanced to the "Elite Eight" of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1944 with a convincing 80-56 victory.
Behind strong performances from Jamaal Tinsley and Big 12 Conference Player of the Year Marcus Fizer, Iowa State opened a 17-point lead 2:15 into the second half and never looked back. The Bruins did not get closer than 11 points in the game's final 19 minutes.
"I'm very proud of these guys," Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy said. "It was a great team effort and UCLA caught us at a bad time. Our goal was not to let them dunk, and I think we gave them one for the entire game. We wanted to keep them out of transition and keep them in a half-court offense." Iowa State (32-4), which won the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles and earned a No. 2 seed, will play Michigan State in the Midwest Region final on Saturday.
"We will have to play near perfect basketball (against Michigan State)," said Eustachy. "They are the No. 1 seed and they deserve a chance to play near their home court. They have a talented group of guys. We will have to look at the film and come up with a game plan." Michael Nurse's 3-pointer with 5:01 to play before halftime ignited a 13-2 run. The Cyclones built a 40-25 lead on Stevie Johnson's tip-in with seven seconds to play before intermission.
"All season people have overlooked us, but we really don't mind," said Johnson. "Just continue to overlook us and maybe we can surprise some people." "We wanted to come out and control the inside and establish that part of our game with tough, hard man-to-man defense," said Tinsley.
Tinsley scored four points during that burst and finished one rebound shy of a triple-double. He collected 14 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds "Jamaal has tremendous talent," Fizer said. "He can do just about anything out there on the floor. Sometimes he chooses not to play defense, but he's a guy that when he puts his mind to it can do anything." The Cyclones who beat UCLA for the first time in seven meetings. They avenged a 74-73 overtime loss to the Bruins in the 1997 Midwest Region final.
"Our hats off to Iowa State. They played a sound game on both ends of the floor," UCLA coach Steve Lavin said. "They were able to break us down. This is just a situation where they played well and we didn't." Fizer had 16 points and nine rebounds. He was at his best early, scoring eight of Iowa State's first 12 points. Tinsley picked up where Fizer left off, collecting the next six points for the Cyclones, who held the lead for the final 34:58.
"It didn't matter who we played, we just wanted to be the tougher team out there on the court," said Fizer. "We weren't going to change our game plan for UCLA. We never change our game plan no matter who we play." Jerome Moiso had 15 points and 10 rebounds for UCLA (21-12), which won its final six regular-season games to make the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed and beat Ball State and Maryland to reach the "Sweet 16." "We wish it could go further," said Lavin. "I think we learned a lot as a team this year." Any hope the Bruins harbored of a miraculous comeback died in the first few minutes of the second half.
Moiso opened the scoring after the break with a turnround jumper from the left baseline that brought the Bruins within 40-30. But Nurse nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing and Fizer's hook shot pushed the lead to 45-30 with 18:47 left.
Billy Knight hit a 3-pointer for UCLA, but Nurse was good again from beyond the arc and Johnson went 2-of-2 from the line, essentially sealing the outcome with still nearly 18 minutes to play.
UCLA's final push moved it within 54-43 with 10:55 remaining before two free throws by Kantrail Horton began a quick 9-0 burst by the Cyclones, turning the last seven minutes into garbage time.
"We wait for teams to put pressure on us and we invite the pressure," Horton said. "We basically have three point gurds out on the court, so we like for teams to pressure us. It fits right into our strength." Johnson and Nurse netted 16 points apiece for Iowa State, which shot 52 percent (31-of-60), including 6-of-10 from 3-point range, and took advantage of 15 UCLA turnovers.
Moiso was the only player in double figures for the Bruins, who connected on just 34 percent (21-of-62) of their shots and were outrebounded, 40-31. Moiso also had 10 rebounds for UCLA.
"They played physical and took it too us, reaching in and getting the ball," Moiso said. "We didn't take care of the ball enough and they made the best of it. We didn't play our best game. They came in wanting to beat UCLA and we didn't answer." .