Writer: Elizabeth McGarr
Post Time: Friday, 3:30 a.m.
If you turned the UCLA-Western Kentucky game off at halftime, you missed what turned out to be a heck of a basketball game. After surviving 16-point runs in each of their first two tournament games (against No. 5 Drake and No. 13 San Diego), the Hilltoppers went on a little run of their own.
Down 21 at the half, Western Kentucky pulled to within four points after Darren Collison fouled out with 5:39 to play. The comeback came courtesy of the Toppers' suffocating press and a 12-5 run by point guard Ty Brazelton, who scored 25 of his game-high 31 points in the second half. "He got into a little zone there," said his father, Tyrone Brazelton Sr., who was cheering for his son from the second row of the Western Kentucky section.
And what else made the difference in the second half? "I mean, we just took a deep breath and calmed down and started playing for each other and wanted to go out and have fun," guard Courtney Lee explained after the game.
As they left the court after their 88-78 loss, the Western Kentucky players all acknowledged their towel-waving fans, who had done their best to out-yell the overwhelmingly blue-and-gold clad crowd. Even Big Red, the Western Kentucky mascot (who, it seems, has gotten as much publicity as the Cinderella Hilltoppers) blew the fans a kiss.
"They played UCLA," Brazelton Sr. said. "They didn't lay down and die."