Gonzaga Was Finally, Truly Tested. It Passed With a Buzzer-Beater Over U.C.L.A.
Timme, who finished with 25 points, scored Gonzaga’s first 6 points of the extra period to put the Bulldogs ahead, 87-83.
U.C.L.A. drew closer when Riley, after Tyger Campbell drew the defense, sank a baseline jumper, and it had a chance to tie on its next possession but Juzang missed a short transition floater with 1 minute, 38 seconds remaining in overtime. Andrew Nembhard seemed to put Gonzaga in control when he knocked in a 3-pointer less than 30 seconds later to put Gonzaga ahead by 90-85.
But the Bruins, as they have done all tournament, had an answer. Coming out of a timeout, Jaquez, who had 19 points, knocked in a 3-pointer from the wing to draw the Bruins within 90-88 with 48 seconds left. When Kispert missed a 3-pointer, the Bruins hustled into the frontcourt and put the ball in the hands of their best player, Juzang, who drove into the lane and missed a short jumper, but collected the rebound and put it back in.
The Zags’ undoing in years past has often been talented opponents with a physical, relentless defense. On nights when their free-flowing offense couldn’t escape the muck, they have rarely had the type of defense that could win those types of games. It is what undid Gonzaga in their last tournament appearance two years ago, when as a No. 1 seed they were upset by Texas Tech in the West regional final.
This year, Few insisted, was different.
The Zags, analytically at least, rated as among the nation’s best defenses and in Suggs, a freshman, they had what has for them been a rare player — an elite athlete with a football player’s mentality. The problem against the Bruins is that there was only one of him. U.C.L.A. was able to isolate Juzang on whoever was guarding him or let Cody Riley, the Bruins’ bulky left-handed center, draw Timme out of the paint and shoot jumpers over him. They also picked on Kispert, who was a defensive millstone.
Yet, when it mattered most for Gonzaga, it wasn’t the defense that saved its season. It was a prayer from the heavens.
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