INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Johnny Juzang poured in 28 points while playing most of the second half on a hurt ankle, and UCLA survived a series of nail-biting misses by top-seeded Michigan in the closing seconds for a 51-49 victory Tuesday night that made the Bruins the fifth No. 11 seed ever to reach the Final Four.
After dictating the pace all game, eschewing the slick style of Michigan in favor of a rock fight, it only seemed fitting that the underdog Bruins — with two overtime wins in the tournament already — would take it to the buzzer.
They were clinging to a 50-49 lead when Michigan called a timeout with 19 seconds to go. Juwan Howard set up an open 3-point look for cold-shooting Franz Wagner, who missed most of everything, and Eli Brooks missed a put-back before UCLA was able to corral the rebound.
Juwan Howard: “It’s gonna be tough to sleep tonight, but I’ll get through it.” pic.twitter.com/KaOkT8CrkP— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 31, 2021
The Wolverines quickly fouled and sent Juzang to the line, where he missed the second of his two free throws with 6.3 seconds left, and Michigan grabbed the rebound. After another timeout, Mike Smith raced up court and unloaded a good look from the wing that was halfway down before bouncing back out.
The buzzer sounded but the officials halted the Bruins' celebration, putting a half-second back on the clock. That was enough time for Michigan to inbound to Wagner, who again let fly a 3-pointer that clanked off the iron — and finally gave the Bruins freedom to spring from their benches in a wild celebration.
Eli Brooks on Michigan’s loss to UCLA: “When you don’t make shots, it makes it a little more difficult.” pic.twitter.com/KmpnPpJbof— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 31, 2021
Tyger Campbell added 11 points for UCLA (22-9), which will play overall No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the national semifinals.
Hunter Dickinson led the Wolverines (23-5) with 11 points, but nothing came easy for the Big Ten freshman of the year — or anyone else in maize and blue. They were 3 of 11 beyond the arc, shot 39% overall and couldn't make the shot at the end.
The No. 1 seed in the East Region had confidently strolled onto the court about 30 minutes before officials even rolled out balls for pregame warmups. The Wolverines almost looked bored as they milled about, some listening to their music, others catching glimpses of the Southern California-Gonzaga game on the screens hanging over the court.
Juwan Howard on Franz Wagner’s final shot: “We got the look. We got the shot we wanted.”— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 31, 2021
He said there’s not a lot they can do with .5 left.
“Both teams missed a lot of shots we usually make.” pic.twitter.com/IXq91Lm0bm
The Bulldogs won so easily it must have lulled them to sleep.
Instead of the crisp passing, unselfishness and eye-pleasing positionless basketball that carried Michigan to three easy wins in the tournament, there was sloppy ballhandling, off-balance jumpers and breakdowns on defense.
Then there was Juzang, who scored 14 of the Bruins' first 16 points. Whether it was a step-back 3-pointer, floater in the lane or drive to the bucket, one of March's breakout stars simply willed UCLA to a 27-23 halftime lead.
The Bruins quickly stretched it to 34-25 before Juzang twisted his right ankle during a rebounding scrum, sending him to the bench to get it taped. He was only out a couple minutes, but Michigan took advantage. Dickinson and Brooks each had back-to-back baskets, wiping out most of UCLA's hard-earned lead.
“It was a great run,” Juwan Howard said.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) March 31, 2021
“It’s very disappointing for our guys. Working hard this year, coming down to one possession.” pic.twitter.com/nRqWonvJMp
Two programs quite familiar with college basketball's biggest stage kept trading blows the rest of the way.
Gonzaga has won two of three against the Bruins, though they’ve split their two meetings in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA won a regional semifinal in 2006 and the Bulldogs returned the favor in the 2015 regional semifinals.