INDIANAPOLIS – 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 East Regional 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.
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.
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.
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.
Two programs quite familiar with college basketball’s biggest stage kept trading blows the rest of the way.
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