San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The second round of the NCAA Tournament concludes on Friday night when the 13th-seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane take on the fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins in South Region action at Viejas Arena.
The winner will advance to the third round on Sunday to take on either VCU or Stephen F. Austin.
Tulsa (21-12) comes in as one of the hottest lower seeds in the tournament having won 11 straight games, allowing itself to surge up the Conference USA standings to finish in a four-way tie for first place at 13-3 before earning three straight wins in the league tournament over Tulane (70-49), Middle Tennessee (76-69) and Louisiana Tech (69-60) to earn the automatic bid. The Golden Hurricane are making their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since 2003.
UCLA (26-8) was the Pac-12 Conference's second-best team during the regular season, finishing 12-6 in league action, but it stepped up its play in the conference tournament, beating Oregon (82-63) and Stanford (84-59) in the early rounds before knocking off No. 1 seed Arizona in the title bout, 75-71. The Bruins, who are appearing in their 46th Big Dance, enter this event with their highest seed since they were No. 1 in the West Region in 2008.
UCLA holds a 3-2 advantage over Tulsa in the all-time series, although the Golden Hurricane won the most recent bout in November of 1996, 77-76 in overtime.
The Golden Hurricane battled through seven ties and 17 lead changes in the C- USA title bout but surged ahead late in the second half with a 13-2 run to capture their first tournament title in more than a decade. They outshot Louisiana Tech from the field, 43.4 percent to 32.7 percent, and were paced by an outstanding effort from James Woodward, who scored 27 points on 8-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Rashad Ray contributed 15 points off the bench and Shaquille Harrison posted 10 points and eight rebounds.
On the season, Tulsa is able to successfully outpace its opponents by shooting 44.2 percent from the field for 73.1 ppg, while allowing 67.4 ppg on just 40.3 percent shooting. Woodard is the go-to scoring option with 15.7 ppg, having drained 63 3-pointers at a 38.9 percent clip, and he also leads the team in rebounding (5.8 rpg). Rashad Smith brings 12.1 ppg to the table on nearly 55 percent efficiency from the floor, while Harrison puts up 9.8 ppg, 3.2 apg and nearly two steals per contest.
The Bruins saw an 11-point first-half advantage disappear in the Pac-12 championship game, but trailing by two with less than four minutes to play, they ended the contest on a 9-3 run to capture the four-point victory. It was simply a modest shooting night for UCLA, making 43.1 percent of its field-goal tries, but it was an outstanding 21-of-25 at the free-throw line, including 17-of-20 in the second half. Kyle Anderson was his usual well-rounded self with 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. Jordan Adams was also stellar with 19 points and Norman Powell pitched in 15 points.
UCLA has been defined by its outstanding offense this season, as it ranks tied for 11th nationally in scoring (81.8 ppg), tied for 10th in field-goal percentage (.490) and in the top-25 in 3-point efficiency (.390), numbers that help mask merely a modest defensive showing (.429, 70.8 ppg). Adams is the top scoring option with 17.2 ppg, while Anderson (14.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.6 apg) is incredibly versatile and the only player in the nation with at least 10.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 6.0 apg. Powell (11.3 ppg) and Zach LaVine (10.0 ppg) are also impressive scorers.