Los Angeles Kansas University point guard Sherron Collins looks back on March 24, 2007, as one of the darkest days of his basketball career.
It’s the afternoon the 5-foot-11 freshman went 0-for-4 from the field and failed to score while playing 15 minutes in the Jayhawks’ 68-55 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight loss to UCLA in San Jose, Calif.
“It was a bad performance by us,” Collins said of the game that kept him from reaching the Final Four in his first year of college. “The bad thing was they manhandled us. We weren’t aggressive at all. Hopefully we are going in there with a little tougher mind-set this time.”
Collins is hoping for a better outcome in today’s 4:30 p.m. regular-season clash against UCLA (2-4) in Pauley Pavilion.
No matter what happens today, it won’t change what happened in ’07. UCLA advanced to the national semifinals in Atlanta, where the Bruins lost to eventual champion Florida. The Jayhawks felt unfulfilled despite a 33-5 campaign.
“It was a huge game, the last game in the regional,” said UCLA senior Michael Roll, who scored three points while playing nine minutes. He and senior James Keefe (no points, one minute) are the only remaining Bruins to have played in the contest; Collins is the only Jayhawk.
“They were great,” Roll said of the Jayhawks. “They had so much talent, NBA first-rounders. It was a battle. It came down to us scoring a few more points.”
KU had no answer for UCLA’s Arron Afflalo, who had 24 points off 10-of-15 shooting. Darren Collison had 14 points with seven turnovers and just one assist. Brandon Rush and Russell Robinson led KU with 18 and 11 points, respectively
The Jayhawks, who led 29-23 late in the first half, scored just 26 points the rest of the game. KU suffered 21 turnovers while forcing UCLA’s season high of 25.
The Jayhawks missed 19 shots from inside the paint, finished with their lowest point total of the season and were blistered on defense for 53.3 percent marksmanship.
“The kids were trying so hard. Sometimes you can try too hard,” said KU coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks returned the next season, and, lessons learned, won the national championship. “I feel we rushed some shots or maybe didn’t go as strong as we could with some particular shots.”
Though the game was sloppy, it proved memorable as UCLA improved its all-time record over KU to 10-4.
“I remember it well. I was a senior in high school and was talking to Kevin Love at the McDonald’s (all-star) game,” KU junior Cole Aldrich said. Love played at UCLA a year before heading to the NBA.
“Kevin and I were going back and forth about who would win the game. They happened to win that day. Hopefully we’ll go there with a lot of energy and play well,” Aldrich added.
UCLA coaching legend John Wooden, who turned 99 on Oct. 14, still attends some of the Bruins’ games. KU coach Self is hoping the Wizard of Westwood will be in the stands today.
“What a life he’s led,” Self said. “He inspires all people to thrive to be a better human being and person. He is an unbelievable role model for many.”
Self has visited with Wooden on several occasions.
“Coach Wooden is good friends with Keith Bailey of Tulsa who ran the Williams Companies. Coach Wooden did speaking for the Williams Companies. Whenever coach Wooden came to town, (when Self coached at Tulsa) Mr. Bailey gave us the opportunity to come to his house and visit. One time, one of my assistants asked coach Wooden, ‘What is the best rebounding drill you had?’ Coach said, ‘To recruit the tallest, best athletes to go after the ball is what we did,’’’ Self added with a laugh.
Wooden spent 27 years (1948-49 through 1974-75) at UCLA. His Bruins won 10 NCAA titles in his final 12 seasons, including seven in a row from 1967-73. UCLA won 38 consecutive NCAA Tournament games and 88 straight contests over parts of four seasons.
“How about those teams they had?” Self said. “One of coach’s national championship teams got hammered by the freshman team on their campus (when freshmen were ineligible). How’d you like to have that kind of talent, that the freshmen could beat a national championship team? Those were some good freshmen he had coming in.”
KU ranks third in NCAA history in all-time wins with 1,976. UCLA is ninth with 1,648. ... UCLA has won 11 NCAA titles; KU five. ... UCLA owns a 10-4 all-time record versus KU. The Bruins won the first eight meetings; KU four of the next five ... Larry Brown of the Charlotte Bobcats has served as head coach at both schools. ... Today’ game is part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. KU is 1-1 in the series, both games against Arizona. ... KU is 5-3 versus the Pac-10 in the Bill Self era.