Usually, #11 seeds aren’t “favorites” in Las Vegas over #6 seeds, but the Minnesota/UCLA match-up on Friday night was not a “usual” circumstance. Minnesota entered the game as the favorite over UCLA, as the Bruins were considered to be vastly over-seeded in the absence of Jordan Adams, and the Gophers showed the country why they garnered so much respect.
Minnesota shot 50% from the field on the night, won the rebounding battle (36-32), and converted an impressive 9-of-15 shots from three-point distance to cruise to a 20-point victory. In addition to their offensive prowess on Friday night, Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers held a solid offensive team in UCLA to just 32% shooting from the field, and caused more turnovers (13) than they allowed assists (1o).
Sophomore guard Andre Hollins had his 2nd-highest scoring output of the season for Minnesota, scoring 28 points to lead all scorers (including 5-of-9 from three), to go along with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Hollins was fantastic throughout the night, and his productivity helped to mitigate a relatively low-scoring night from the Gophers’ best player, Trevor Mbakwe (9 points, 12 rebounds).
UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammed, who garnered big-time national attention today when it was revealed by his father that he was a full year older than previously thought, finished with 20 points in his (likely) final game at UCLA. However, Muhammed had a very rough shooting night (6-18), and this capped a roller-coaster year for the prep school stud. The Bruins’ shooting deserted them on this night, as each of their four leading scorers shot woeful percentages, as Norman Powell (3-12), Kyle Anderson (2-11), and Larry Drew II (1-6) went ice-cold alongside Muhammed.
For a coach on the “hot seat”, Tubby Smith had his team ready to play in a big way on this night, and they responded with a decisive victory over a quality opponent. The Gophers will square off with #3-seed Florida on Sunday, and while they will be a significant underdog, they have a legitimate chance to win if they can replicate this type of offensive explosion.
Be sure to stay tuned to FanSided.com and BustingBrackets.com throughout the entire tournament as we keep you up to date with the latest results. Will there be a Cinderella story in 2013? We will have to tune in and see.