UCLA blows out Lumberjacks, advances to first Sweet Sixteen since 2008

SAN DIEGO — A few hours before tipoff, Stephen F. Austin laid claim to the longest winning streak in college basketball.

Or rather, the claim fell into the Lumberjacks’ laps. In St. Louis, eighth-seeded Kentucky felled Wichita State, ending the Shockers’ dream of an undefeated season. Some 1,800 miles away at Viejas Arena, SFA inherited the mantle of the country’s hottest team.

Alas, its 29-game streak died before nightfall.

Fourth-seeded UCLA easily dispatched the Cinderella from East Texas on Sunday evening, trailing for just 25 seconds of a 77-60 win over the Lumberjacks.

With the win, the Bruins advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2008. It also ends a long drought for first-year head coach Steve Alford, whose lone trip came in 1999 when he led 12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State to upsets over Wisconsin and Tennessee. Continue reading

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How much do big winning streaks help? Steve Alford draws on his past to explain

Back in 1995, Steve Alford was a fledgling head coach at Manchester College. Just 30 years old, he guided the tiny Indiana school to 31 straight wins, a perfect record blemished only when the Spartans lost to Wisconsin–Platteville in the Division III national title game.

As he prepares to take UCLA to its first Sweet Sixteen since 2008 — and a first for him since 1999 — standing in the way tonight is a Stephen F. Austin squad that has won 29 straight. He remarked on the similarities between the Lumberjacks and the first program he ever coached. Continue reading

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At a glance: No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin

NCAA Tournament, South Region
Round of 64:
No. 4 UCLA (27-8) vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin (32-2)
When: Sunday, 4:10 p.m. PT, Viejas Arena (San Diego State)
TV: TBS (Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski, Otis Livingston)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN LUMBERJACKS
RPI/Pomeroy ranking: 52 / 44

Best wins: Friday night’s 77-75 overtime upset of Virginia Commonwealth, by far. VCU — which had a No. 13 RPI — was only Stephen F. Austin’s second top-100 RPI opponent this season, and probably deserved to win until it fouled on a 3-point attempt while up four points. A 29-win streak usually requires some breaks, and the Lumberjacks benefited from the Rams’ bone-headed play.

Besides that, SFA’s Southland Conference schedule didn’t really offer anyone of note. Its 10-point win over Towson (RPI 100) in December would be the next bullet point on the resume. Continue reading

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UCLA squelches Tulsa’s upset bid in first tournament win since 2011

SAN DIEGO — With each March comes madness, and this year’s dose didn’t disappoint.

Across the country, double-digit seeds reigned. Mercer over Duke. North Dakota State over Oklahoma. Dayton over Ohio State.

By Friday afternoon, Warren Buffett’s money was already safe. The famed businessman and investor offered $1 billion to anyone who could fill out a perfect NCAA tournament bracket, partnering with Quicken Loans to set up the challenge. By 1:33 p.m. PT, only 16 were left.

Before night fell, those hopes died too. And the round of 64 wasn’t even over yet.

UCLA was up last, its tipoff at Viejas Arena pushed back by No.-12 seed Stephen F. Austin’s overtime thriller against VCU. With a 76-59 win over No. 13-seed Tulsa, the fourth-seed Bruins earned their first tournament victory in three years — calmly skirting around the upset bid. Continue reading

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Stephen F. Austin knocks off VCU, sets up potential date with UCLA

If UCLA beats Tulsa tonight, it’ll have a date with Stephen F. Austin.

The 12th-seeded Lumberjacks knocked off No. 5-seed Virginia Commonwealth, 77-75, on Friday night — extending its win streak to 29 games. With nearly all of Viejas Arena cheering in its favor, SFA forced overtime and survived VCU’s last-second 3-point attempt to advance to the round of 32. Continue reading

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