Gophers blow out UCLA in tournament opener

Minnesota won its first NCAA tournament game in 16 years and its first under coach Tubby Smith.

\mb11\ dunks the ball Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. The Gophers defeated the Bruins 83-63 and will continue to the next round.

Emily Dunker

\mb11\ dunks the ball Friday, March 22, 2013 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. The Gophers defeated the Bruins 83-63 and will continue to the next round.

Andrew Krammer

AUSTIN, Texas — The No. 11-seeded Gophers dismantled No. 6 seed UCLA on Friday to grab coach Tubby Smith’s first NCAA tournament victory with the program.

Minnesota toppled the Bruins 83-63 in front of an announced crowd of 13,825 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

A lousy start marked by as many foul calls as field goals left the Gophers down 15-14 with 11 minutes played.

Junior guard Austin Hollins snapped the Gophers out of it, hitting his second three-pointer of the game to put Minnesota up for good.

“We didn’t expect it to be a 20-point blowout like that,” senior Rodney Williams said. “We expected to come in here and grind it out.”

Minnesota took a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime and saw only one scare in the second half. UCLA pulled within five points after guard Norman Powell’s three-pointer with 15 minutes left.

Gophers sophomore point guard Andre Hollins, who finished with 28 points, nailed back-to-back three-pointers in response to give Minnesota an 11-point lead.

“After I hit those threes, it really relieved the pressure on us,” Hollins said. “And we picked up our defensive intensity.”

Talk leading up to the game surrounded the Gophers’ superior rebounding against a UCLA squad known for its poor work on the boards. But the Bruins outrebounded Minnesota 42-36.

The Gophers compensated for the deficit with improved ball handling — they had only 11 turnovers — and 9-for-14 shooting from Andre and Austin Hollins from three-point range.

“When we’re making shots from the outside, we’re pretty effective,” Smith said.

The Gophers shot 50 percent from the floor, including 56 percent from beyond the arc.

Minnesota will play No. 3 seed Florida on Sunday at 5:10 p.m.

“I’m pretty familiar with [Florida head coach Billy] Donovan,” Smith said. “We played a few games against each other when I was at Kentucky.”