First Four victor UCLA takes out Michigan Wolverines, 51-49, in NCAA men's tournament
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Basketball Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — UCLA has made more trips to the Final Four than any program but North Carolina.
None of the 19 was more surprising than this one.
After sneaking into the NCAA Tournament off four straight losses, and barely surviving Michigan State in their First Four game, the Bruins took down top-seeded Michigan on Tuesday night to continue a run for the ages.
Johnny Juzang poured in 28 points while playing most of the second half on a hurt ankle, and coach Mick Cronin’s bunch of stubborn overachievers survived a set of nail-biting misses by the Wolverines in the final seconds for a 51-49 victory that made the Bruins only the fifth No. 11 seed to reach the national semifinals.
“These guys get all the credit,” said Cronin, who had never been to the Elite Eight in 18 years as a head coach, much less the Final Four. “Unbelievable heart, toughness. Nobody picked us. Nobody believed in us. That’s how we like it.”
They’ll be big underdogs again Saturday night: Overall No. 1 seed Gonzaga is up next.
“We know our next assignment is tough,” Cronin said, “but their resiliency is unbelievable.”
The Wolverines (23-5) missed their final eight shots, including a 3-pointer by Mike Smith with a couple seconds left and another by Franz Wagner at the buzzer, sending the Bruins (22-9) flying off the bench in a wild celebration.
They’re the second First Four team to make the Final Four after VCU a decade ago.
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 — having won two tourney games in overtime already — would take another to the buzzer.
They were clinging to a 50-49 lead when Michigan called a timeout with 19 seconds to go, intending to set up the game’s final shot. Wolverines coach Juwan Howard set up an open 3-point look for the cold-shooting Wagner, who missed almost everything, and Eli Brooks also missed a put-back before UCLA finally corralled the rebound.