Writer: Arash Markazi
Game: Texas A&M-UCLA
Post Time: 1:07 a.m., Sunday
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Ben Howland apologized as he sucked on a throat lozenge outside of UCLA's locker room.
"I'm sorry guys," he whispered to a group of reporters. "I lost my voice."
After his Bruins almost lost their second-round game to No. 9 seed Texas A&M, it seemed like a fair trade off.
While it appears that no No. 1 seed has an easier road to the Final Four than UCLA, the Bruins, much like they have done this season, seem more inclined to offer last minute dramatics than double-digit wins.
"That was reminiscent of a lot of games we seem to be in lately, where, we're having to make dramatic comebacks in the last few minutes," said Howland after UCLA pulled off a 53-49 win after trailing for much of the game. "The one thing I love about our team is that they know in their heart they're going to win the game. They're going to find the way."
Not surprisingly, the Bruins found their way to the Sweet 16 by following the lead of its star freshman playing in his first NCAA tournament. With UCLA trailing by 10 in the second half, Kevin Love took over the game and energized a shell-shocked home crowd by blocking every shot he was around and nailing big shots on the other end of the floor.
After every big play Love, who nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocks, screamed at the crowd, pumped his fists in the air and wagged his tongue out, trying to get his teammates and the UCLA fans into the game.
"Basketball's an emotional game, whether you like to show it or not," said Love. "I was just very into it. I think I flexed so much, my muscles kind of hurt after. I also kept sticking out my tongue. It was pretty crazy... I guess you could call it March Madness."