Minnesota rolls past troubled UCLA and into second round

Amid all the losses and turmoil and talk of Coach Tubby Smith’s ever-warming seat, No. 11 Minnesota somehow managed to stumble across a team with bigger problems than its own.

The Gophers entered the NCAA tournament on a three-game losing streak and a 5-11 record since early January. Smith was on the chopping block. They needed to string something together — fast.

Thankfully, that punching bag arrived packaged in golden and blue, neatly wrapped in the form of UCLA, with its own struggling coach — Ben Howland — and its own internal issues. All that led to a 83-63 Gophers drubbing, behind 28 points from Andre Hollins and 16 points from Austin Hollins.

Early Friday morning, star freshman Shabazz Muhammad and his father, Ron Holmes, were the centerpieces of a Los Angeles Times column that revealed Holmes had been lying about his son’s age. They told everyone that Muhammad was 19. He’s actually 20. Muhammad finished with a team-high 20 points, though he shot missed all six three-point attempts and, to cap off a forgettable night, rimmed out a meaningless layup at the buzzer.

Even so, both teams still entered with relatively impressive profiles. They each five top 50 RPI wins — Michigan State, Indiana, Memphis, Wisconsin and Illinois for Minnesota; Arizona three times, Missouri and Colorado for the Bruins. But both were vulnerable to head-scratching moments throughout the season. UCLA lost at home to Cal Poly and Southern California. Minnesota fell at Northwestern and Purdue.

Even when the Gophers bounded to an early lead, it didn’t seem safe.

Given Minnesota’s early profile, this wasn’t considered a colossal upset. Nate Silver had them as a 61.9 percent favorite. Still, this was the program’s first NCAA tournament win since 1997. And any win is big for Smith and company, especially with No. 3 Florida up next.

As for UCLA, Muhammad’s almost certain to enter the NBA draft, even if it’s unknown how these latest personal developments will affect his status among scouts and front offices. But ever since consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08, the Bruins haven’t made it past the second round under Howland. His future might not be so bright.


Wife of Florida Gulf Coast coach was a supermodel | Welcome to Dunk City, Fla.

Somebody’s perfect: It’s the Atlantic-10

LaSalle upsets Kansas State. Bill Snyder does some emotional eating.

Jim Larranaga and Bob Thomason, 63 years young, square off | Boeheim sticks around

Marshall Henderson: Love him or hate him? | He passes!

Interactive bracket and NCAA tournament history database

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Next Story
Alex Prewitt · March 23, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.