LOS ANGELES (AP)—UCLA’s five freshmen will have to wait. The Bruins’ seniors aren’t ready to completely hand over control just yet.
With the outcome in doubt Thursday night, Darren Collison made two free throws with 21 seconds remaining and No. 4 UCLA survived a defensive struggle to beat Miami (Ohio) 64-59 in the 2K Sports Classic.
“That was a very hard-fought win,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We knew they’d be very patient. They really grind it out and make it tough. They also have senior, veteran guys.”
So do the Bruins (2-0), who advanced to next week’s semifinals against Michigan at New York’s Madison Square Garden. No. 8 Duke meets Southern Illinois in the other game.
Seniors Collison and Josh Shipp both scored 16 points to help UCLA earn its 30th consecutive home victory over a nonconference opponent. The veterans of three consecutive Final Fours generated the offense a night after UCLA’s highly touted freshmen played impressively in their college debuts.
“We want to do whatever it takes; tonight it was scoring,” Shipp said of himself and Collison. “Me and Darren want to take over games.”
Michael Bramos scored 22 points for the RedHawks (1-1).
“We played a good team on their home floor,” Miami coach Charlie Coles said. “Of course, I would have liked to have won this game, but if you lose, I want to make sure what carryover we have. I hope this is a good carryover and we take away what we did right and not the emotions of the game.”
Next up for the RedHawks is No. 5 Pittsburgh on Monday.
“It’s like playing Ben Howland twice,” Coles said about Howland’s former defensive-minded team.
Leading 42-40, Miami’s Adam Fletcher intentionally fouled James Keefe, who missed both free throws. But freshman Drew Gordon picked up his veteran teammate with a basket that evened the score, one of four ties in the second half.
Miami took another two-point lead before the Bruins ran off seven straight points, helped by Michael Roll’s 3-pointer, to go up 49-44.
But the RedHawks didn’t go away. Bramos continued hitting and Antonio Ballard’s 3-pointer—his first basket of the game—drew them within one point with five minutes remaining.
Keefe then matched Ballard, hitting a 3-pointer for his first basket to keep UCLA ahead 58-54 in between airballs by Roll and Shipp.
“Keefe’s 3-pointer from the corner was a nice prayer that went our way,” Howland said. “It’s better to be lucky than good, I guess.”
Kenny Hayes’ layup gave him his first points and got the RedHawks within two.
“This was like an NCAA tournament game,” Collison said. “That’s a very good team. They’re very patient, they took good shots. It came down to valuing our possessions. We took good shots at the end.”
Alfred Aboya made two free throws that pushed UCLA’s lead to 60-56. Shipp tipped the ball away from Bramos, then threw it off him as Shipp was falling out of bounds, but the referee ruled Miami retained possession.
Hayes’ 3-point attempt bounced off the rim, but Shipp fouled Bramos in the ensuing scramble for the rebound. Bramos missed his first free throw and Aboya grabbed the defensive rebound with 1 1/2 minutes left.
Eric Pollitz hit a 3-pointer that drew the RedHawks to 60-59 with 51 seconds left. Clinging to a one-point lead, Collison got fouled at UCLA’s end and made both.
“There was no way we were going to lose that game,” he said.
Hayes missed a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left and Shipp made two free throws for the final margin.
The Bruins were 13-of-20 from the line, while Miami went 12-of-14.
“The key for UCLA is they made their free throws; they made six down the stretch,” Coles said. “I was really hoping that Aboya would miss his free throws.”
The RedHawks took a five-point lead to start the game and then never trailed by more than that the rest of the half. They made all seven of their free throws, tied the Bruins with 10 defensive rebounds and nearly matched UCLA’s 48 percent shooting.
UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic played his first game of the season after his arrest last week for suspicion of misdemeanor battery. He allegedly pushed his former girlfriend to the ground during an argument and has a scheduled court appearance on Dec. 4. He didn’t dress as punishment in Wednesday’s 24-point win over Prairie View.