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TWISH: UCLA wins the 1995 March Madness tournament

On April 3, 1995, the UCLA men’s basketball team won their 11th National Championship, defeating the defending champions Arkansas 89-78. It was the program’s first title in 20 years and set a stillstanding NCAA record as the only school to win 11 championships.

The Bruins were ranked No. 6 in the AP preseason poll after a disappointing first-round loss in last year’s tournament. After only losing one starter, they were poised for a redemption year. They kicked off the season with a six-game winning streak, including a narrow one-point victory No. 7 Kentucky and a 137-100 throttling of George Mason. The streak ended when Oregon handed the Bruins their first and only loss of the season.

UCLA ended the regular season 26-1, 17-1 in conference play. After winning the conference, they secured an automatic NCAA tournament bid and were named the No. 1 overall seed. Ed O’Bannon had an amazing season, averaging 20.4 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories. He won the John R. Wooden Award and was named a consensus All-American and Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year. His teammate Edney joined him on the All-Pac-10 First Team and won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, an award that used to be given to players who were shorter than average. Edney led the team with nearly seven assists per game, while also being second on the team in scoring.

In the first round, the Bruins steamrolled No. 16 seed Florida International 92-56. Missouri proved much more of a challenge in the Round of 32. UCLA held a one-point lead when the Tigers scored inside with only 4.8 seconds left, giving them a 74-73 lead. The Bruins inbounded the ball to Edney, and he raced down the entire length of the court to make a buzzer-beating layup, advancing UCLA to the Sweet 16. Edney’s late-game heroics are widely considered an all-time March Madness moment and the best play in UCLA basketball history.

UCLA cruised by Mississippi State in the Sweet 16 86-67, led by O’Bannon’s 21 points. With hopes of reaching their first Final Four since 1980, the Bruins faced a sophomore Ray Allen and his Connecticut Huskies in the Elite Eight. Despite Allen’s amazing outing, scoring a game-high 36, O’Bannon and Edney combined for 48 points to help the Bruins win the high-scoring contest 102-96. The Bruins faced Oklahoma State in the Final Four. Cowboys center Byrant Reeves led all scorers with 25 points but it was not enough. The UCLA defense forced 19 turnovers en route to a 74-61 victory.

The No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks, looking to repeat as national champions, were the last team in the way for UCLA to win their first national championship since their legendary coach John Wooden retired. The game did not start off great for them when Edney got injured less than three minutes into the game and did not return. Despite the injury, the Bruins led 40-39 going into the second half.

The adversity forced players to step up. Sophomore guard Cameron Dollar had to play big-time minutes due to Edney’s injury and had a game-high 8 assists, while freshman Toby Bailey scored 26 points. UCLA were champions once again. O’Bannon’s scored 30 points and secured 17 rebounds and was named Most Outstanding Player.

The 1995 Bruins were the last men’s basketball team from the university to win the National Championship. The drought continues, as Gonzaga beat UCLA in the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA tournament. UCLA has not competed in the National Championship game in 17 years, but still holds the record for most titles won by a single program.

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