UCLA Knocks off MSU in OT, Will Face No. 6 BYU in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) shoots a 3-pointer near teammate David Singleton (34) and in front of Michigan State's Rocket Watts (2) and Gabe Brown (44) during the first half of a First Four game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 18, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Robert Franklin/Associated Press

The UCLA Bruins prevailed in a showdown between historic programs that was more fit for the Final Four on paper.

UCLA overcame an 11-point halftime deficit and defeated the Michigan State Spartans 86-80 in overtime in Thursday's First Four clash at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang led the way for the Pac-12 representative, which advanced past the First Four in the NCAA men's tournament for the first time since 2017.

An impressive showing from Aaron Henry was not enough for the Spartans, who fell well short of their third Final Four in seven years.

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness



Notable Player Stats

  • Jaime Jaquez Jr., G, UCLA: 27 PTS, 4 REB
  • Johnny Juzang, G, UCLA: 23 PTS, 4 REB
  • Aaron Henry, F, MSU: 18 PTS, 7 AST, 5 REB
  • Joshua Langford, G, MSU: 12 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST


Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang Lead Furious Comeback

UCLA entered Thursday's game with the opposite of momentum.

The Bruins looked to be contenders when they were 12-2 with losses to formidable foes in Ohio State and San Diego State as their only blemishes, but they proceeded to lose three of the next four and then dropped their last four games prior to the NCAA men's tournament.

It would have been easy, then, for the team to fold when it fell behind by double digits in the first half with a defense ranked 89th on KenPom.com struggling to make a single stop. The Spartans caught fire from deep, exploited wide-open lanes to get to the basket and seemed to be in cruise control as they poured in 44 points by intermission.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

THIS GAME IS WILD. UCLA and Michigan St. are going back and forth https://t.co/l4aQh6LJQt

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jaime Jaquez Jr. CLUTCH AND-1 😨 THIS GAME. https://t.co/8WCccYXxxe

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

UCLA pulls back in front! 👀 @UCLAMBB | #MarchMadness https://t.co/RXJg0dX5x2

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Mick Cronin caught up with his dad for the first time in a year after @UCLAMBB's big win 💙 #MarchMadness https://t.co/A18u9f324n

That put UCLA into comeback mode throughout the contest, but Jaquez and Juzang were up to the challenge.

They fueled a dramatic comeback by drilling three-pointers and pushing the tempo so they could unleash shots before Michigan State's typically strong half-court defense was set. They were at their best with the game on the line, as two free throws from Juzang and a converted and-1 at the rim by Jaquez erased a five-point deficit in the last 70 seconds to force overtime.

From there, they had that momentum that eluded them in the second half of the regular season and controlled overtime from Juzang's first jumper.

The only question now is whether he will be healthy for the next round after he suffered an apparent ankle injury in overtime.


Michigan State Collapses in Emotional Loss

To say Michigan State's season was a roller coaster would be a massive understatement, so it seems fitting there were plenty of emotions and swings in Thursday's contest.

The Spartans seemed destined to miss the Big Dance when they were 10-9 overall and 4-9 in the Big Ten by mid-February, but they ripped off a 5-2 stretch that included victories over some of the best teams in the country in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State. A defense that finished 33rd in the country in KenPom.com's rankings was the primary reason for the turnaround.

Perhaps that is why Tom Izzo was so upset when that defense allowed a buzzer-beater jumper from Jaime Jaquez Jr. to cut the team's halftime lead to 11:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tom Izzo and Gabe Brown get into it 👀 https://t.co/kWncCN2Pkx

Draymond Green @Money23Green

Typical Michigan State exchange... move on RELAX!

While Izzo and forward Gabe Brown exchanged pleasantries, with the coach even grabbing the player's arm, Michigan State could at least point to its balanced offensive effort that staked it to a commanding lead in the early going.

Henry hit multiple outside shots all while serving as the primary facilitator, Julius Marble II found his touch inside the arc, Joshua Langford methodically worked his way into the lane, and Joey Hauser, Marcus Bingham Jr. and Gabe Brown provided a spark off the bench while an inconsistent offense looked dialed in during the first half.

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Marcus Bingham said NO! 🚫 @MSU_Basketball #MarchMadness https://t.co/9dQIT2DjuP

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Michigan State’s ball movement = 🔥 @MSU_Basketball | #MarchMadness https://t.co/JMLW1WWGix

That offense went missing at the worst time, though, as the Spartans didn't score a single field goal in the final three minutes of regulation. Henry airballed a jumper that could have won it, and the Green and White looked shell-shocked going into the extra period.

The offense completely stalled with over-passing, key turnovers and ugly shots while managing just three points in overtime to cap off a season the program will surely want to soon forget.


What's Next?

The Bruins assume the No. 11 seed in the East Region and will face the No. 6 BYU Cougars in Saturday's first-round clash.