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.