Nearly 30 years after Bruins fell to Michigan, Tyus Edney wants UCLA to take its best shot
Two years before he drove for the shot of a lifetime, Tyus Edney made the pass he might regret for eternity.
Edney was UCLA’s jitterbug point guard who had the underdog Bruins bidding for an upset of top-seeded Michigan — sound familiar? — in the second round of the 1993 NCAA tournament at the McKale Center in Tucson.
The Bruins had outdueled the Wolverines’ “Fab Five” for much of the game, building and losing a 19-point lead. After briefly falling behind, UCLA pulled to a 77-77 tie when Edney made two free throws with 6.3 seconds left in the second half, and the Bruins got the ball back after forcing a turnover with pressure near midcourt.
Edney commenced a two-on-one fastbreak with Ed O’Bannon, the Bruins’ best player. The only thing standing in the way of a massive upset was — sound familiar? — Juwan Howard, the Wolverines’ 6-foot-9 center.
“My mind was, get the ball to Ed, our finisher,” Edney told The Times with a laugh during a telephone interview Tuesday, only hours before the storied college basketball teams would meet again in an East Region final at Lucas Oil Stadium. “It’s like me against Juwan or Ed against Juwan, right? You know, split-second decisions you make as you’re playing.”
UCLA coach Mick Cronin’s father, Hep, has taken some of the spotlight during the Bruins’ run in the NCAA tournament.
Edney made a bounce pass, and it seemed for a flickering moment that destiny might smile on the Bruins. But here came Michigan’s Jimmy King at the last second, swiping the ball and forcing overtime.
“Jimmy King came out of nowhere — I never saw him,” recalled Edney, who had to go back and watch a replay to understand what had happened. “He was in a full sprint from under their free-throw line when we started the break, and he ... caught up to our fastbreak and stole that pass, and when I saw that, I said, ‘That is amazing.’ If there was ever an example you want to give of getting back on defense, that was it.”
UCLA eventually lost, 86-84, in overtime, after King got the best of Edney again, nudging him aside for a rebound and putback with 1.5 seconds left.
“I saw something Jimmy was saying about how he pushed me out of the way to get the ball, so yeah, I kind of remember,” Edney said. “I think, pound for pound, he kind of outweighed me a little bit.”
There would be no more last-second heroics, as O’Bannon’s off-balance shot at the top of the key was off the mark.
UCLA got some revenge against the Wolverines in the 1998 NCAA tournament, pulling out an 85-82 victory in the second round, but it would be far more meaningful for the 11th-seeded Bruins to topple top-seeded Michigan in Tuesday’s East Region final with Howard now coaching the Wolverines.
Under coach Mick Cronin, UCLA channels great Bruins of the past — Kareem, Wooden and Walton — and wills its way into the Elite Eight of NCAA tournament.
“When I saw the matchup, Michigan-UCLA, I was like, oh, man, we’ve got to get them,” said Edney, a former Bruins assistant under coach Steve Alford who is director of engagement for the school’s athletics department and works for the Bruin Varsity Club. “Definitely.”
Edney knows the Bruins well because he coached more than half the current roster during Alford’s final season in 2018-19. He called the matchup against the Wolverines one that would pit Michigan’s inside-out approach against UCLA’s outside-in style, now that forward Jalen Hill has left the team for personal reasons.
“Just like we have matchup problems with them inside, they’ll have matchup problems with our guys on the perimeter, especially when Jaime [Jaquez Jr.] and [Johnny] Juzang are playing well,” Edney said. “Obviously, our bench guys have been huge. That’s like the X factor, David [Singleton] and these guys coming off and playing well. I’m sure they will use Kenny [Nwuba] a little bit to beat up on them and kind of give them a big body tonight, and then Cody [Riley] will keep doing what he’s doing.”
If the Bruins need to go the length of the court in the final seconds, they can try to replicate Edney’s most memorable NCAA tournament moment. It came in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tournament, when he took an inbounds pass with 4.8 seconds left, drove toward the basket and scored over Missouri’s Derek Grimm to give the Bruins a pulsating one-point victory that would catapult them toward their most recent national championship.
Only two years removed from the heartache of what had happened against Michigan, UCLA coach Jim Harrick instructed Edney to take the final shot coming out of the final timeout.
“I wasn’t thinking about Michigan at that time, but I’m sure coach was,” Edney said. “He made it a point to tell me to shoot the ball.”
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