Minnesota dominated UCLA on the interior in the first half Friday night, led by senior Trevor Mbakwe. Once that ran its course, its guards took over to finish the job in an impressive 83-63 win in the Round of 64 in Austin, Texas.
Mbakwe finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, while the backcourt trio of Andre Hollins (28 points), Austin Hollins (16 points), and Joe Coleman (14 points) put the finishing touches on a UCLA team that looked unenthused and lethargic in the second half.
The theme of matchups continues to run throughout this NCAA tournament and already without Jordan Adams because of injury, the Bruins could already do little to stop what Minnesota did offensively with both Hollins guards and Coleman. Add that to the fact that Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason were getting UCLA’s bigs in foul trouble early and the Gophers were hitting the Bruins on both fronts.
The game was billed as the “Loser Loses His Job,” referring to the hot seat beneath both Minnesota coach Tubby Smith and UCLA coach Ben Howland, but we’ll have to see how off-season decisions pan out to see if that proves true. Early Twitter reports say Howland would not comment after the game on whether or not he had just coached his final game with the Bruins.
Minnesota now moves on to play Florida in the Round of 32 for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. Mbakwe will meet his match in the paint against another physical player in Florida’s Patric Young, while the Gopher backcourt will have their hands full with Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton. Minnesota, most importantly, will have to make shots. The more it succumbs to Florida’s defense and allows the Gators to bait them into bad shots and misses, the more it sparks the Florida transition game that can quickly put the Gophers in a hole.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.
USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.
Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.
The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.
Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.
Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.
The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.
They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.
Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES
- MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
- Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
- Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.