Big Ten Daily: Michigan Misses Last 8 Shots, Loses to UCLA

The Big Ten, widely regarded as the best league in the country this year, has been shut out of the Final Four after No. 1 seed Michigan collapsed down the stretch and lost to No. 11 seed UCLA 51-49 on Tuesday night.
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – And then there were none.

Michigan, the last Big Ten team standing in the NCAA Tournament, picked a bad time to lose its offense Tuesday night, and the Wolverines' struggles led to a 51-49 loss to UCLA in the East Regional final at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Trailing by one possession in the final four minutes of the game, top-seeded Michigan just couldn’t get a shot to fall down the stretch, and the Wolverines saw their season end with a 51-49 loss to UCLA in the Elite 8.

Michigan missed its final eight shots of the game, including a pair of three-pointers from Mike Smith and Franz Wagner on their final possession. It was a tough night for Wagner, who scored just four points on 1-of-10 shooting, and never seemed to get comfortable on the offensive end.

“We got the look, got the shot that we wanted,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “Unfortunately, there's not much you can do with point-five, but that shot, it was a nice little heave. Unfortunately, it just didn't go in.

“Franz is one of the big reasons why we're here in this position,” Howard said. “And I will always have trust in all my players and it's never one guy’s fault because he didn't shoot the ball well. Together as a team. You win together and you lose together.”

Both teams battled back and forth down the stretch from there, with neither team able to gain an advantage on the other. Trailing by one point, the Wolverines had four consecutive offensive possessions end with a shot in the paint, but couldn’t get anything to drop.

Juzang sank the first of two free throws to stretch UCLA’s lead to two points, but missed the second. Juwan Howard called timeout with six seconds left, and Mike Smith got a clean look at a three after racing up the court, but it went just long.

With half of a second left, Wagner caught the ensuing inbounds pass and heaved one final prayer, but the bank shot deflected off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.

It was a bitter ending for Michigan and the Big Ten as a whole, which was widely considered the best league in America this season but now won't be represented in the Final Four.

Michigan was a 7-point favorite to UCLA – and lost. No. 1 seed Illinois did the same thing (Loyola), as did No. 2 seeds Iowa (Oregon) and Ohio State (Oral Roberts), and No. 4 seed Purdue (North Texas). Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan State and Maryland didn''t even survive the first weekend.

The Big Ten now hasn't won a championship since Michigan State in 2000.

“It's very disappointing for our guys, working extremely hard this year, coming down to one possession,” Howard said. “And that's how it goes sometimes. The game of basketball, there's one or two possessions that could really either help you or hurt you.

"And for us, you know, we came up short. It's gonna be tough to sleep tonight.”

UCLA, which had to play an extra game in the tournament and overcame a 14-point deficit that night against Michigan State, adds to a West Coast feel in the Final Four. They will play unbeaten Gonzaga in the national semifinals, and No. 1 seed Baylor will play Houston.

The semifinals are on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Watch Juwan Howard's full postgame press conference

Here is everything Juwan Howard had to say in his postgame press conference.