UCLA’s improbable NCAA tournament run continues.
The No. 11-seeded Bruins held on in the second half to upset No. 1 seed Michigan, 51-49, to advance to play Gonzaga in the Final Four on Saturday night. UCLA joins 2011 VCU as the only teams to advance to the Final Four after having to play in a First Four play-in game before the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Michigan had three chances to win the East region in the final 10 seconds of the game. But Franz Wagner's three didn't hit the rim with less than 10 seconds to go and a three from Mike Smith with less than three seconds to go bounced twice off the rim.
The ball bounced out of bounds off UCLA after Smith's shot and Michigan got 0.5 seconds for another chance. Hunter Dickinson inbounded the ball to Wagner behind the 3-point line and his potential game-winner went off the backboard and the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Johnny Juzang stars for UCLA
The Bruins were powered by Johnny Juzang once again. He finished with a game-high 28 points after scoring 18 in the first half. Juzang doubled up his Bruin teammates in the first 20 minutes and had just five fewer points than Michigan did.
He missed time briefly in the second half after re-injuring his right ankle with 17:17 to go and UCLA up nine. Juzang twisted his bothersome right ankle when he stepped on a teammate's foot. He was able to re-enter the game after he got the ankle taped and his presence helped keep Michigan at bay over the final 10 minutes.
Juzang, a transfer from Kentucky, has scored more than 20 points in three of UCLA’s five tournament games so far. He had 23 in the Bruins’ overtime win against Michigan State and 27 in their first-round upset of BYU.
He struggled against Alabama on Sunday with just 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting. And UCLA was able to win the game in overtime without him after Juzang fouled out late in the second half.
Tuesday night, Tyger Campbell was the only other UCLA player in double figures. He had 11. No other UCLA player had more than four points.
Michigan's shooting woes
Michigan’s three misses in the final 10 seconds encapsulated the way the team shot the ball throughout Tuesday night’s game. Michigan was just 3-of-11 from three and shot less than 40 percent from the field. The Wolverines missed numerous shots at the rim in the second half and were also just 6-of-11 from the free throw line. Smith missed back-to-back free throws near the end of the first half and Dickinson missed consecutive free throws in the early minutes of the second half.
Wagner especially struggled. The sophomore guard entered as Michigan’s second-leading scorer. But he was just 1-of-10 from the field and was 0-of-4 from behind the three-point line.
UCLA will be a big underdog vs. Gonzaga
A Michigan win would have meant a chalky Final Four in one of the most upset-laden tournaments in recent history with three No. 1 seeds (UM, Gonzaga, Baylor) and a No. 2 seed (Houston) in the Final Four.
Instead, UCLA is crashing the party and in its first Final Four since 2008. And the Bruins' reward for their improbable run is a matchup with No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga in the semifinals.
It looks like a mismatch, both in historic and present terms. Gonzaga is searching for its first national title. UCLA has 11. The Bulldogs are aiming to be the first men's college basketball team since Indiana in 1975-76 to finish the season unbeaten. UCLA lost four-straight games before the tournament started and barely made it.
The point spread on the game will surely be big and in favor of Gonzaga. But we've learned not to count out this UCLA team over the past two weeks. The Bruins have a shot. And they'll probably need another big game from Juzang to pull off their biggest upset yet.
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