De Paul sped to a 19-point first-half lead and then coolly slowed down the tempo and nursed a shocking, 95-91, upset victory over UCLA in the West Regional final today at Marriott Center at Brigham Young University.
The surprising Blue Demons (25-5) will now play top-ranked and unbeaten Indiana State in the semifinals of the National Collegiate Basketball Championship tournament next Saturday in Salt Lake City. UCLA ended the year at 25-5.
The Sycamores made it to the semifinals by defeating Arkansas, 73-71, in the Midwest Regional final today in Cincinnati.
De Paul's charismatic and portly 65-year-old coach, Ray Meyer, who has been at the Chicago school for 37 years, called his team's victory "one of the greatest thrills of my life. Now we get to play Indiana State, and see the Bird fly."
The man Meyer wants to guard Indiana State star Larry Bird, however, 6-6 Curtis Watkins, injured his knee in the final two minutes of today's game and his status for next Saturday is uncertain.
All five De Paul starters scored in double figures today, as Watkins and Gary Garland each had 24 points and chubby freshman Mark Aguirre had 20.
David Greenwood was most of the UCLA offense with 37 points.
De Paul took control of the game from the beginning. UCLA's biggest strengths normaily are its quickness and the outside shooting of guards Roy Hamilton and Brad Holiand, who had combined fr 58 points in the Bruins' easy semifinal victory over San Francisco Thursday night.
The Blue Demons exposed both as counterfeit as their guards, Gary Garland and Clyde Bradshaw stayed close to Holiand and Hamilton from the opening tap and made life miserable for them most of the game.
De Paul pressed full court and played an unexpected zone defense most of the game and made it work. UCLA's shots wouldn't drop early. De Paul kept forcing turnovers and converted on most of them.
De Paul led, 25-22, with 8:51 left in the half when UCLA went to a halfcourt zone-trap defense. De Paul was expecting it and ate it up. The Blue Demons just spread out, kept the middle open and played a motion-delay offense. They passed and cut to the basket and UCLA wasn't quick enough to force them into many mistakes.
The clever Garland would penetrate the middle and if he wasn't picked up, he'd go all the way. If he was picked up he dished the ball off to either Aguirre or Watkins for easy baskets.
As a result of that offense, De Paul missed only two shots in the last nine minutes of the half and led by 17 at 51-34 at intermission and UCLA was on the ropes.
"We had to go out of our usual defense," said Helland. "We had to use the trap and we had to try and defense their four corners."
De Paul tries to play only five men every game and, because his team was starting to get fatigued and because it was also starting to get into foul trouble, Meyer slowed things down, stayed in the zone defense in the second half and used the clock about as well as it can be used.
"We knew we had a 17-point lead so I told my kids to hold the ball for one minute each time down the floor before going for a shot," Meyer said., "That would leave UCLA only 10 minutes to try and catch up."
Because of their patinence and UCLA's frantic efforts to get the ball, De Paul shot practically nothing but layups and free throuws in the second half and shot 73 per cent from the field in the last 20 minutes.
With Greenwood unstoppable inside and with Holland and Hamilton finally starting to hit, Ucla/ made its run in the last nine minutes. The De Paul fatigue took away some of its quickness and the UCLA press started forcing turnovers.
The Bruins closed to within two points at 93-91 after Holland made two free throws with 39 seconds left, but De Paul then played keepaway until eight seconds remained. Then Garland, who was named the regional's most outstanding player, penetrated the defense and scored an uncontested layup with eight seconds left to seal the victory.