Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins cheers after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 51-49 in an Elite Eight round game of the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on the 30th. March 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
After dictating the pace of the game and foregoing Michigan’s agile style in favor of a rock-boy style, it seemed only natural that the Bruins, who have already won two overtimes in the tournament, would go to the buzzer.
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They led 50-49 when Michigan took a timeout with 19 seconds left. Juwan Howard offered a 3-pointer to Franz Wagner, who missed, and Eli Brooks missed a layup before UCLA could grab the rebound.
The Wolverines quickly fought back 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 ran up the field and sprinted from the wing, running down the half court before diving back in.
The bell rang, but the officials stopped the Bruins’ cheering with half a second left on the clock. That was enough time for Michigan to reach Wagner, who in turn dropped a 3-pointer that locked up the iron – allowing the Bruins to finally jump off their benches in wild cheers.
Tiger Campbell added 11 points for UCLA (22-9), which is ranked No. 1 in the country. 1 will meet Gonzaga in the semifinals.
Hunter Dickinson led the Wolverines (23-5) with 11 points, but nothing came easy for the Big Ten Rookie of the Year – or anyone else in Blue and Blue. They made just 3 of 11 shots from beyond the arc, shot 39% overall and couldn’t finish with a hit.
The No. 1 seed from the East Region walked onto the field confidently, about 30 minutes before the officials threw up the warm-up balls for the game. The Wolverines looked bored, some listening to their music, others watching the Southern California-Gonzaga game on the screens that hung above the field.
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The Bulldogs won so easily, I think they fell asleep.
Instead of the crisp passing, unselfishness and excitement of positionless basketball that gave Michigan three easy wins in the tournament, there was sloppy ball handling, unbalanced jumpers and defensive breakdowns.
Then there was Juzan, who scored 14 of the Bruins’ first 16 points. Whether it was with back-to-back three-pointers, a floater in the lane or a run to the basket, one of March’s rising stars helped UCLA easily take a 27-23 lead into halftime.
The Bruins quickly extended their lead to 34-25 before Juzang sprained his right ankle on a rebound and was sent to the bench to be bandaged. He was only unconscious for a few minutes, but Michigan took advantage. Dickinson and Brooks scored back-to-back baskets to erase most of UCLA’s hard-fought lead.
The two programs, used to the biggest stage in college basketball, fought it out for the rest of the game.
Gonzaga has won two of three games against the Bruins, though they have split their encounters in the NCAA Tournament. UCLA won the regional semifinal in 2006, and the Bulldogs returned as regional semifinal favorites in 2015.
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