AUSTIN, Texas — Without Jordan Adams, sixth-seeded UCLA closed out its turbulent season with a flatlined performance against No. 11-seed Minnesota.
The Bruins were the slated underdog all week long. Once the game actually began at the Frank Erwin Center, they did nothing but reaffirm that talk in a 83-63 loss. What started out as an ugly but mutually designed affair — the teams missed their first 12 combined field goal attempts — eventually turned into a Gophers rout.
Despite shooting 26.7 percent in the first half, UCLA stayed within 10 points at the intermission due to a surprisingly strong rebounding effort. The team ended up with a 42-36 edge on the glass, grabbing 19 offensive boards on 43 missed shots.
It wasn’t until Minnesota point guard Andre Hollins caught fire in the second half that the Bruins were completely sunk. The sophomore scored 23 points after halftime, and added nine rebounds to go with five assists.
Some notes from the game.
— Ben Howland’s departure feels almost imminent, although everyone predictably remained tight-lipped about the his job status. When asked whether he may have coached his final game for the Bruins, he said simply: “No comment.”
The 10th-year head coach has had a successful tenure that included three straight Final Fours, but a first-round exit wasn’t what fans expected after a top-rated recruiting class and No. 13 preseason ranking. (Not to mention the two missed tournaments in three years, multiple transfers, etc.) After the game, players either said he deserved to stay, that it was out of their control, or some combination of both.
It’s worth noting that senior point guard Larry Drew II was clear in his gratitude toward Howland. Drew had an unremarkable stint in North Carolina before a controversial midseason transfer. Going home to Los Angeles breathed new life into his career, resulting in a spot at the top of the program’s single-season assists list.
“Coach Howland giving me this opportunity when I didn’t think nobody else would, it means a lot,” Drew said. “I think I had a good season here at UCLA. A lot of fun too. Something that was missing from my game prior to me transferring here. I had fun playing the game.
“I gotta thank my teammates for that too. They made it that way for me. I have a lot of great memories. To be a part of this program really means a lot to me.”
— The Bruins thought they had adjusted to life without Jordan Adams, but looked even worse Friday night than they did in a Pac-12 title game loss to Oregon. Over 10 minutes had elapsed before any starter hit a field goal, and the team finished with 10 assists to 15 turnovers. The ratio was 8:14 against the Ducks last Saturday, but that was coming off less than 24 hours of prep after Adams broke his foot.
UCLA couldn’t deal with the shifting zone looks Minnesota threw out, and still looked lost without Adams — whom Howland called the team’s “most effective all-around player” afterward.
“We knew they were going to show zone, but we didn’t know they would be playing it the whole game,” junior forward Travis Wear said. I think our execution in zone offense really wasn’t great tonight at all. It obviously could’ve been better. We didn’t shoot the ball that well.”
Added freshman Kyle Anderson: “I think today the effort was there. It was tough to say (why we lost), but they were just better than us out there. It is sad to go down like this.”
— Larry Drew II took responsibility for allowing Andre Hollins to break loose. Drew had said Thursday that if he shut Hollins down, the rest of the Gophers would follow through.
But Hollins, a notoriously streaky shooter, ended up with 28 points — his highest total of the season after a career-high 41 against Memphis. He and guard Austin Hollins (unrelated) combined to shoot 9-of-14 from 3-point territory, leading Minnesota to a season-best 56.3 percent.
“I’d say, the majority of the reason why we lost tonight was due to my performance — or lack thereof — on the defensive end against Andre Hollins,” Drew said. “I felt like I did a good job on him in the first half. One play, he just got open in the corner, hit a three. It just seemed like he really didn’t miss after that.”
He added that he tried to get more physical with Hollins, but refs warned him to ease off. Drew also had more turnovers than assists for the first time as a Bruin, coughing the ball up five times against his three dishes.
— The quick whistles hampered UCLA’s already thin frontcourt early on. Travis Wear, David Wear and Tony Parker combined for eight fouls in the first half. Both teams finished with 19 fouls, but coach Tubby Smith used 11 different Gophers throughout the night. Only seven Bruins played.
“I thought some of (the calls) were outrageous,” said Parker, who picked up five fouls in seven minutes. “Let us bang. We’re all big men. We’re in the NCAA tournament. I just thought it was going to be a tough, grind-it-out game, and it wasn’t like that for us post players.”
Added Travis Wear: “They were calling it really tight today, and it obviously hurt us. The big men, we were all limited. But it was the way the game was called.”
— Shabazz Muhammad, who had an awful 0-for-7 start, finished with a team-high 20 points — the same as his actual age. The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that Muhammad’s father had been passing his son off as 19, but the freshman insisted he has told people he is 20.
“I don’t even know what the big deal was,” Muhammad said. “I’m just worried about playing basketball. … I don’t care about my age. I’m in college. I’m one of the youngest players in college, so what does it matter?