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Minnesota muscles past punchless UCLA in rout

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Associated Press
3/23/2013 1:18:58 AM
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Minnesota coach Tubby Smith got the win he needed to calm down his critics at home. UCLA's Ben Howland took a loss that will only ignite a new round of howling for his job out West.

Andre Hollins scored 28 points and Minnesota rolled past punchless UCLA 83-63 on Friday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament, giving Smith his first tournament win in six seasons with the Gophers.

Austin Hollins scored 16 for the 11th-seeded Gophers (21-12), who earned their first win since March 2 and advanced to Sunday's third round against No. 3 seed Florida in the South Regional.

"My teammates believe in me, they know I can hit the shots," Andre Hollins said. "Tonight I hit the shots."

The 20-point loss will be tough for Howland to bring back to Los Angeles. Despite winning the Pac-12 regular-season title, the Bruins (25-10) came to Austin hearing intense rumblings of dissatisfaction with a program that hasn't made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2009. UCLA missed the tournament altogether last season.

Howland, who led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08, wouldn't talk about his future after the game.

"I'm really proud of this group of kids, and I'm really indebted to them for the great season they provided," he said.

Even the conference title was dampened, however, when Jordan Adams, whom Howland described as his team's best all-around player, was lost to a broken ankle in the Pac-12 tournament.

The injury seemed to infect the entire UCLA offence and the Bruins never looked to have the fight to beat the Gophers, who delivered on their reputation as tough team moulded by season-long battles in the Big Ten.

"We were obviously short-handed," Howland said. "You could see that our guys wore down physically."

Smith had faced his own pressures from Minnesota fans. The Gophers started the season 15-1, then lost 11 of their final 16 to limp into the NCAA tournament.

They found their early-season form in time to thump the Bruins. Minnesota shot 50 per cent, with Andre and Austin Hollins knocking down a combined nine 3-pointers. The Gophers had seized control by halftime and never let go.

"We haven't played well in a while," Smith said. "It was good to see our guys having fun, playing the right way, sharing the basketball, taking care of the basketball."

The Bruins clearly missed Adams.

UCLA looked disjointed on offence and freshman Shabazz Muhammad, expected to leave for the NBA, missed all seven of his shots in the first half. Muhammad finished with 20 points, but his teammates often looked for other options and most of his scoring came in a desperate rally that never really got close.

"I thought we were prepared," Muhammad said. "They came out and jumped on us early and they really played well."

UCLA also got into foul trouble when forwards Travis Wear and Tony Parker both picked up three in the first half. That robbed the Bruins of some much-needed muscle under the basket against the physical Gophers.

Austin Hollins scored 11 in the first half and his third 3-pointer pushed the Gophers to a 33-19 lead. UCLA pulled to 35-25 by halftime.

Muhammad got more involved in the second with seven quick points and UCLA pulled within five when Norman Powell made a 3-pointer. The Gophers responded with consecutive 3-pointers from Andre Hollins from opposite corners to push the lead back to 11.

Every time UCLA made a move, the Gophers found a way to push the Bruins back and were never in danger of losing the lead. UCLA's last threat came when Muhammad scored four consecutive points, including a fast-break dunk that cut the lead to eight with about nine minutes to play.

The Gophers responded with a 16-5 run -- punctuated by Andre Hollins' last 3-pointer -- to make it 73-54.

"A lot of people were doubting us," Gophers forward Rodney Williams said. "We know how good we are."

Andre Hollins  (Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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