The final box score said it all.
Zero makes on the final eight shots.
No field goals over the final 5:22.
Michigan basketball‘s season came to an end on Tuesday night with a 51-49 loss to UCLA in the Elite Eight in Indianapolis — and it all happened in nightmarish fashion for the Wolverines, the No. 1 seed in the East upset by 11 seed.
For the Bruins, the story of the game will be about Johnny Juzang, who scored 18 first-half points and overcame a sprained ankle to score 10 more in the second half to make up an astonishing 55% of his team’s offense.
For the Wolverines, the story will be about how they could not drum up enough offense — especially in the closing minutes, when their season was on the line.
“Both teams missed some shots that we normally make,” said coach Juwan Howard. “If you look at the shooting percentage, you know, it was truly a Big Ten style of play with 51-49 and with UCLA shooting 38.9, 39% and Michigan shooting 39% from the field; they shot 23% from (the 3-point line), we shot 27 percent.
“Fortunately enough for them, they were 6 for 7 from the free-throw line and we were 6 of 11. So we missed five free throws. They got seven offensive rebounds; we got 11. They got eight turnovers. Unfortunately for us we had 14. Reading that out to you guys, that was the difference of the ballgame. But it was a hard-fought game on both sides.”
With 4:30 left in the second half, Hunter Dickinson gave Michigan a 47-46 lead by splitting a pair of free throws.
Everything unraveled from there.
On the ensuing possession, Jules Bernard banked in a spinning, contested floater; close to 2 minutes earlier, he had given UCLA a one-point lead by grabbing an offensive rebound that got past numerous Wolverines before scoring on a put-back.
Bernard’s second basket rattled home with 4:04 left.
Over those final 4-plus minutes, Michigan had nine different chances to score. Those opportunities produced two points — a pair of free throws from Franz Wagner with 44 seconds left.
After Bernard’s basket, the Wolverines came up with three consecutive defensive stops. Michigan’s offense produced, in chronological order: A missed jump hook from Brandon Johns; a missed layup from Wagner; a missed layup from Dickinson; and a missed layup from Mike Smith.
Then the Bruins got the ball in Juzang’s hands. He drove baseline and hit a floater to extend the lead to three. Then 21 seconds later, Wagner drove to the basket and drew a shooting foul. He stepped up to the line and hit both.
On the next possession, Michigan got another stop. Jaime Jaquez missed a 3 with 27 seconds left and Chaundee Brown corralled the rebound.
Howard called timeout with 19.8 seconds left. His team trailed by one point. It would have four more chances to score — and come up empty on all four.
Eli Brooks inbounded the ball and passed to Smith. Dickinson set an off-ball screen for Brooks, who raced toward the basket. Smith and Wagner exchanged the ball on a dribble hand-off before Wagner got a screen from Dickinson.
Both UCLA defenders went under the screen. Wagner took a couple dribbles, squared up and shot — but missed badly. It was an air-ball, well short of the rim. Luckily for Michigan, Brooks flashed across the baseline to grab the loose ball and, in one motion, scoop it up toward the rim.
That missed, too.
The Bruins finally came up with the rebound. Michigan fouled three times, with the last putting Juzang — who else — at the line.
He made the front end of the one-and-one, missing his second attempt. That gave the Wolverines the ball with 6.0 seconds left and another chance to tie or win the game.
Howard called timeout again.
On the inbounds play, Smith crossed over from the right side of the court and caught the pass with a head of steam. He drove up the left side of the court, with UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell following closely — but not too closely, perhaps because any foul would lead to a pair of free throws. Smith got to the 3-point line, with Campbell hanging off, and rose up for the shot.
The ball clanged off the back of the rim.
“We got the look, got the shot that we wanted,” Howard said. “Unfortunately there’s not much you can do with .5, but that shot it, was a nice little heave. Unfortunately it just didn’t go in. Before that we got an open look and just fell short but overall, I love the fact how our guys executed down the stretch.”
Michigan wasn’t dead in the water just yet. The ball was ruled to have bounced off a UCLA player before time expired. The officials added 0.5 seconds to the clock, with the Wolverines set to inbound the ball from under the basket.
Both teams traded timeouts to talk strategy.
Then came the final play: An inbounds pass to Wagner, whose off-balance 3 hit backboard, the back of the rim and then fell harmlessly to the floor.
One side hung its head. The other began to celebrate.
After the game, neither Howard nor Brooks had much to say about the loss.
And it took Brooks just 11 words to explain how his team’s season came to an end.
“We were in place to make shots,” he said, “and came up short.”
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