UCLA guard Johnny Juzang had to watch his team from the bench as the Bruins survived an overtime thriller to reach Elite Eight. On Tuesday, the Bruins star player took the opportunity to get back on the line-up – he scored 28 points while battling an ankle injury – to bring UCLA past Michigan 51-49 (# 1).
The Bruins, an 11-seed, reached the Final Four for the first time since 2008. They are the fifth No. 11 seed to make the Final Four, along with Loyola Chicago (2018), Virginia Commonwealth (2011), and George Mason (2006). and LSU (1986).
UCLA knocked out the East Region’s top seed, tenacity, following a similar draft that resulted in four previous wins in this NCAA tournament. Coach Mick Cronin’s gritty group took on responsibility, forced sales and turned the Michigan game into a full rock fight. The Bruins went from the First Four – as a bubble team – to the Final Four in one of the most unlikely March Madness runs of recent times.
VCU is the only other team to advance from the top four to the national semifinals.
Juzang’s jumper with 1:05 left gave UCLA a 50-47 lead and his six-second free throw sealed the win. The point guard Tyler Campbell had 11 points.
“We had ups and downs during the season, but it’s so nice how we teamed up for this postseason,” said Juzang after the game. “It’s just a feeling that everyone is so unified. It’s like a unity and we all share and root each other. I mean, I think that’s why we’re at this point and just playing for each other. Just Lots of love, man. We’re not done yet. But so far it’s been nice, the ups and downs, and that makes moments like these even more special. “
The Wolverines’ Mike Smith missed a potential three-pointer with two seconds to go, and Franz Wagner’s 0.5 second miss sealed the defeat for a Michigan team that played without second-top scorer Isaiah Livers.
Hunter Dickinson led Michigan with 11 points in defeat. Wagner’s free throws with a 44-second lead reduced the deficit to 50-49. But Wagner missed a possible starting shot with three pointers 12 seconds before the end, and Eli Brooks was unable to establish a connection eight seconds before the end.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ ScottMGleeson.