UCLA exits NCAA tournament quickly; more departures to follow?
AUSTIN, Texas — This sure looked like adieu.
UCLA guard Larry Drew II left the game with a 83-63 loss to Minnesota decided. Coach Ben Howland greeted him near the official scorer’s table and the two hugged for several seconds.
It was goodbye for Drew, a senior who played his last game. But it may be only one of the so-long, thanks-for-playing moments.
UCLA’s season, which started with such high expectations, ended not with a bang, but with a whimper Friday night in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s definitely not how I envisioned it all ending,” Drew said.
UCLA fans got one final look Friday. On display, and under the microscope, was the No. 2-ranked recruiting class and the coach who has taken the Bruins to three final fours.
Don’t blink. Things could look much different come next fall.
The Golden Gophers (21-12) sent UCLA packing, though the Bruins (25-10) arrived at the Erwin Center with their bags ready for check-in. They checked out quickly. The tarmac awaited.
“We had some good looks early, we had a lot shots that didn’t go in,” Howland said. “It snowballed.”
That it did. The Bruins shot 31.7% from the field (20 for 63). Their five starters combined to go 13 for 52.
Andre Hollins scored 28 points for Minnesota, 23 in the second half. He had all 13 of the Gophers’ points during a six-minute stretch in the second half, blunting UCLA’s comeback attempts.
Norman Powell’s three-pointer pulled the Bruins to within five, 44-39, with 15 minutes left. But Hollins made back-to-back three-pointers and the lead was back to 11.
The Bruins were going so badly that at one point freshman center Tony Parker was fouled while shooting, yet Minnesota extended its lead.
Parker was called for a technical foul on the play. He made one of his two free throws. Hollins made two free throws on the technical, then scored on a layup for a 54-42 lead.
“All in all, they deserved to win,” UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad said. “It’s hard to play in your first NCAA tournament.”
And probably his last.
A lot was expected from the Bruins this season — maybe too much —and they ended far short of what had been deemed acceptable. UCLA won the Pac-12 Conference regular-season title, but that wasn’t enough to clear the bar.
Now the locker room — and the coach’s office — appear set for a spring cleaning.
Muhammad is expected to declare for the NBA draft. Freshman Kyle Anderson could follow him.
Muhammad finished with 20 points, but missed his first eight shots and didn’t score his first field goal until two minutes into the second half. Anderson didn’t score until three minutes into the second half.
“I thought we were prepared,” Muhammad said. “They jumped on us early.”
Parker, who has struggled this season, said he is considering whether to transfer.
So the only member of that stellar recruiting class who might be back is guard Jordan Adams, who broke his right foot in a Pac-12 tournament semifinal and was lost for the season.
Muhammad, Anderson and Parker all said they would huddle with their families before making a decision.
“I’m not sure what the future holds for me,” Anderson said. “I’m just proud of the guys for the season.”
It may have been Howland’s last season. He and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero are expected to meet early next week — Guerrero usually meets with coaches at season’s end.
Guerrero declined to comment after the game. Asked about his future, Howland said, “No comment.”
Howland led the Bruins to the 2006, ’07 and ’08 Final Fours. He also has won four conference titles, the most by a UCLA coach since John Wooden. But after 10 seasons change could come.
“He is a really good coach and he deserves to come back,” Muhammad said. “We had a terrific season, besides this loss.”
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