Juwan Howard defends Michigan’s final two shot attempts in loss to UCLA

Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don't.

For much of the 2020-21 season, Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines absolutely had “it” as they won the Big Ten regular-season title and earned a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

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But on Tuesday night, the Wolverines did not have “it” as they lost 51-49 to the No. 11 seeded UCLA Bruins with a berth in the Final Four on the line.

Though the Wolverines played one of their worst games of the season, they were still in a position to win the game as the clock was ticking down towards zero.

The first shot came on a Mike Smith three-point attempt that was just short and the second came with 0.05 remaining on the clock when freshman center Hunter Dickinson inbounded the ball to Franz Wagner who was wide left on another three-point attempt that would have won the game.

Following the game, Juwan Howard spoke to the media and discussed the final two shots for the Wolverines.

“We got the look, got the shot that we wanted. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with :05, but that shot it, was a nice little heave. Unfortunately, it just didn’t go in. Before that, we got an open look and just fell short but overall, I love the fact how our guys executed down the stretch.

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“Yeah, both teams missed some shots that we normally make, if you look at the shooting percentage, you know, it was truly a Big Ten style of play with 51-49 and with UCLA shooting 38.9, 39 percent and Michigan shooting 39 percent from the field; they shot 23 percent from field, we shot 27 percent. Fortunately enough for them, they were 6 for 7 from the free-throw line and we were 6 of 11. So we missed five free throws. They got seven offensive rebounds; we got 11. They got eight turnovers. Unfortunately for us, we had 14. Reading that out to you guys, that was the difference of the ballgame. But it was a hard-fought game on both sides.”

Many are questioning the final two shots because Wagner and Smith were a combined 2-for-17 shooting in the game, including going 1-for-7 from beyond the arc.

With the loss, Michigan finishes the season with a 23-5 record, while UCLA (22-9) gets a crack at the No. 1 overall seed, Gonzaga.

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  1. I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed as a fan of a State of Michigan sports team (with the exceptions of that ghost foul that was called on Bill Laimbeer in game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals, or the performances of the Tigers the last two times they were in the World Series). The Bruins didn’t even belong on the same court as the Blue and Gold, yet they won. Why? I cannot answer that but I would say that I would have tried to set up C. Brown at the end of the game, IF I was going to take a 3. Why? Because over the course of the tournament, his 3 pt attempts looked natural, strong, and were taken with confidence. But why even take a 3 pointer when you’re not a 3 point shooting team? It’s just so incredibly disappointing to make it that far, to be 1 step away from getting to face Gonzaga, after having made and lost the NCAA championship game twice recently and lost them both, and to ultimately lose to a team who was a short hair away from not even making the tournament. I have a lot of respect for Coach Howard and what he did with this team, but I look at it like this: if something like this (the depth of the disappointment) happens again, it’s not just a coincidence. In my estimation, when you make it this far in a competition that is so difficult and then you lay an egg just short of enormous glory, it comes down to decision making which is clearly on the coaching. This is on par with Matt LaFluer’s playoff decision in the NFC Championship game last season.

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