LAWRENCE — Did UCLA's Malcolm Lee foul Kansas' Mario Little with less than one second remaining in a tie game between two traditional powers that seemed destined for overtime?
UCLA coach Ben Howland sure didn't think so. The first thing he did when the game ended was review the tape, and he noticed that Lee and Little both had their hands on a loose ball with .9 seconds left.
"It was really, really a poor way to end the game on a call," Howland said. "You normally wouldn't make that kind of call at that point in the game unless it was very obvious."
Maybe it was obvious. Little said Lee bumped him before he lifted a desperation shot. When he went to the line and swished his first free throw with .7 seconds left to give KU a 77-76 victory, he felt he had nothing to apologize for.
Being the winning coach, KU coach Bill Self had no reason to watch the replay. Hey, it worked out for one night, but he was more concerned with the bigger picture for the fourth-ranked Jayhawks.
"They outplayed us, that's evident," Self said. "We were fortunate. I think they controlled the game."
UCLA was as formidable as the name on its jersey would indicate on Thursday night at Allen Fieldhouse, but Kansas still had control of the scoreboard leading 73-66 with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left. The Jayhawks (7-0) seemed to have a win secured after an 8-0 run late in the second half turned a 64-60 UCLA lead into a 68-64 KU advantage. Tyshawn Taylor scored the first six points and joined Tyrel Reed in finishing with a team-high 17 points.
"I just had to attack," Taylor said.
The Jayhawks would cough up that lead and put their school-record 63-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse in jeopardy when Reed, falling out of bounds, tossed an errant pass to UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt with 13 seconds left. Honeycutt braced himself and fired a game-tying three-pointer for a game-high 33 points.
"They trapped me on the baseline," Reed said. "I started falling out of bounds, whether they hit me or not. Either way it was a dumb play."
Marcus Morris hustled down the floor after getting the inbounds pass with five seconds left and lost control of the ball. Little grabbed it, and win No. 64 in a row at Allen was about to be in the books.
Thursday night's barnburner was reminiscent of the way the Bruins handled Kansas four seasons ago in the 2007 NCAA Tournament West Regional final. UCLA outmuscled the Jayhawks and took them out of their rhythm offensively on the way to the Final Four.
That's what UCLA coach Ben Howland's best teams are known for. The Jayhawks went on to win a national championship and hang up a couple more Big 12 title banners, while the Bruins went 14-18 last season, including a loss to Kansas at Pauley Pavilion, and failed to make even the NIT.
With the Jayhawks coming into this one ranked in the top five and coming off a win over UCLA's Pac-10 rival Arizona, Thursday night seemed a great time for Kansas to reassert its dominance against another blueblood.
Of course, it wouldn't be that easy. The Bruins looked like a Howland team again, pushing Kansas around on the glass with a 22-15 rebounding advantage in the first 20 minutes. UCLA was a different team once it inserted the 6-foot-10, 305-pound Josh Smith into the game. The Bruins were already playing with 6-foot-8 forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt, which allowed them to test Kansas inside.
In the first half, the Jayhawks weren't up to the challenge. The Morris twins picked up where they left off in Arizona, playing just 19 combined minutes due to picking up two fouls each. The twins combined for just eight points and four rebounds, while Smith had seven points and nine rebounds by himself. Honeycutt scorched the net for 16.
The Jayhawks took a 42-39 lead to the half thanks to the hot shooting of Tyrel Reed, who had 15 points, making three of four 3-pointers. Reed had only made 29 percent of his threes entering the game, but he heated up at the right time. Certainly, KU coach Bill Self had been right to encourage Reed to keep firing.
Worth noting -- UCLA outrebounded KU 22-15 in the fist half. . . . Mario Little was fouled and converted a three-point play to give the Jayhawks a 42-39 halftime lead.