UCLA’s season ends with a whimper

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. Continue reading

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Minnesota 35, UCLA 25: Halftime update

AUSTIN, Texas — All week long, UCLA insisted it was ready for the big stage.

The No. 6-seeded Bruins embraced the underdog role as it opened the NCAA tournament. They would prove the doubters wrong, they said, just as they had done on their way to a regular-season Pac-12 title.

But just 20 minutes into their matchup against No. 11-seed Minnesota, UCLA barely looked like a team that belonged in the NCAA tournament. The Bruins shot 8-of-30 from the field before halftime as it gave up a 35-25 lead to the Gophers. Continue reading

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Wear not worried about Mbakwe

Minnesota ranks eighth in the country in rebounding margin. UCLA ranks 251st. On paper, it’s a tremendous advantage, and one reason the No. 11-seed Gophers are widely considered favorites over the sixth-seeded Bruins on Friday night.

But forward Travis Wear, who will be tasked with some low-post defensive duties, isn’t too worried about the opposition.

Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe is a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward who led the Big Ten in rebounding. Wear said that the team had already been “battle-tested” against the big men in Pac-12, adding that he had more trouble against slower 7-footers such as Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski and Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye. Continue reading

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Howland using bulletin-board material

When UCLA returned to the court following its stinging loss in the Pac-12 title game last week, it found something waiting for them.

After Las Vegas pegged the Bruins as one of two higher-seeded teams to lose in NCAA tournament’s round of 64, coach Ben Howland decided to post up predictions of Friday’s matchup against No. 11-seed Minnesota. Continue reading

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Schilling picks Michigan State

Three-star forward Gavin Schilling has decided to attend Michigan State, he announced on Twitter today, leaving the UCLA out in the cold along with finalists Minnesota and Villanova.

The 6-foot-9, 205-pound recruit became the first member of the Spartans’ 2013 class in a decision that leaves the Bruins still wanting for frontcourt depth. UCLA, the Pac-12′s worst rebounding team this season, has three guards who committed during the early signing period.

Schilling, whose Findlay Prep teammate Allerik Freeman is already signed to UCLA, watched the Bruins Pac-12 semifinal win over Arizona. The 66-64 victory wasn’t enough to sway the 17-year-old, who lived in Chicago, France and Germany before relocating to Henderson, Nev. His mother still lives in Chicago.

His head coach at Findlay, Todd Simon, grew up 30 miles north of Lansing, Mich.

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Obama picks Gophers over Bruins

President Barack Obama unveiled his March Madness bracket this morning with ESPN’s Andy Katz, and joined the crowd when it came to the UCLA-Minnesota first-round game.

“UCLA lost a key player (in Jordan Adams),” he said. “Minnesota’s been playing tough. I think Tubby Smith’s team’s gonna do pretty well.”

Obama only picked one national champion correctly (UNC, 2009) in his first term, and his 2012 bracket was in the 63.6th percentile of ESPN users. This year, he picked Indiana to beat fellow No. 1-seed Louisville in the title game, with No. 3 Florida and No. 2 Ohio State filling out the rest of his Final Four.

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Gavin Schilling announces Wednesday

Three-star forward Gavin Schilling is deciding between Minnesota, Villanova, Michigan State and UCLA, and will announce Wednesdy at 11:15 a.m. on Twitter. The 6-foot-9 recruit watched the Bruins’ win over Arizona in the Pac-12 semifinals, and his Findlay Prep teammate Allerik Freeman is already signed to UCLA.

UPDATE: Schilling said he will announce at 12:30 p.m. instead.

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Did anyone pick UCLA to beat Minnesota?

No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA might be the most popular upset pick in the whole NCAA field. The Gophers may have lost 11 of their last 16 games, but the Bruins haven’t inspired much national confidence after falling to Oregon without Jordan Adams.

Here’s a quick predictions round-up. Continue reading

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No. 11 Minnesota: First look

No. 6 UCLA (25-9) vs. No. 11 Minnesota (20-12)
Tipoff:
6:57 p.m. PT, Frank Erwin Center (University of Texas at Austin)
TV: truTV

Conference play: The Golden Gophers opened the season 15-1 and 3-0 in the Big Ten, but have lost 11 of their 16 games since. Minnesota finished in a three-way tie for seventh in the conference alongside Illinois, a seven-seed, and Purdue, which did not make the field of 68. The Gophers lost in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, falling 51-49 to the Illini.

Coach: Tubby Smith is one of the most well-known coaches in college basketball, but hasn’t replicated the success he had at Kentucky. He began his career in Lexington with an NCAA title in 1998, and reached three Elite Eights and two Sweet Sixteens before resigning in 2007 due to public pressure and dissatisfaction.

Minnesota will be making its third NCAA appearance in six years under Smith, and are looking for their first victory after two double-digit losses in the first round. Continue reading

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