LOUISVILLE, Ky. – UCLA's Bryce Alford scored 27 points against Southern Methodist on Thursday in the Bruins' 60-59 victory over the Mustangs, but his final three points created an instant controversy in this NCAA tournament.
With UCLA down 59-57 with 13 seconds to play, Alford launched a difficult three-pointer, fading away from about 25 feet, and the shot was going to be just wide of the rim. SMU's Yanick Moreira, a 6-foot-11 senior, reached up, and his hand was between the rim and the ball when he got his hand on the ball. A referee's whistle blew, and goaltending was called. Alford was given the three-pointer, and the Bruins led 60-59.
The SMU bench howled in protest, but the call stood. The Mustangs came down and Nic Moore, a junior guard, missed two shots — one with 4 seconds remaining and the other with 2 seconds left.
Alford had no doubt there was interference.
"I had a pretty good look at it because I shot it," Alford said. "From my angle, I saw Kevon [Looney] and another player going after it, and I was confused because he went up and grabbed it on its way to the rim.
"I don't know if it would have gone in or not, but he definitely grabbed it on the way."
For Alford, it capped an amazing performance. He scored all of his points on three-pointers, including four in the final 3:40. He certainly did his father and UCLA coach Steve Alford proud being a former sharpshooter himself.
"I've said it over the last two years now, he's better than Dad," the elder Alford said.
The Bruins' win was a fitting answer for critics of UCLA's record (21-13) and tournament worthiness.
"It was big motivation," said Looney, who had six points and 10 rebounds. "Everybody doubted us. They said we should not be here. ... We wanted to prove that we are a good team and that we deserve [to be here]."
Moore scored 24 points for SMU (27-7), which is coached by Hall of Famer Larry Brown. The Mustangs were in the tournament for the first time since 1993.