Everyone, take a deep breath, and take a minute to appreciate what we just witnessed. Gonzaga is moving on to the National Championship game Monday night after taking down UCLA 93-90 in what can best be described as an all-time game in the history of the Final Four. In a game that featured many many big plays, none were bigger than Jalen Suggs’ buzzer beating heave from near half court, a shot that will go down in not only Gonzaga but NCAA basketball history.
UCLA came out of the gates hot, scoring on the opening possession of the game and continuing to hit open jumpers as the game got underway. On the other side, Joel Ayayi carried the load for the Zags, scoring their first seven points en route to a game high 16 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Bruins maintained their momentum throughout the half, taking advantage of some loose defense by Gonzaga to finish the half with 44 points on 58% shooting from the field. UCLA’s defense was equally tough for the Zags, who struggled to find a rhythm on offense. That being said, they still managed 45 points and 14 assists on 17 made field goals by the break. While Ayayi was high scorer for Gonzaga, Johnny Juzang led the hot shooting for UCLA, with 15 points on 6-8 field goal attempts.
The first half trends pretty much held serve in the early stages of the second, with both teams trading baskets, neither one creating much of a gap. It seemed for a moment like the Zags were getting some separation, forcing turnovers and scoring in transition to the tune of a seven point advantage just prior to the ten minute mark. UCLA was able to claw its way back, using ludicrously hot shooting to tie the game and eventually take the lead back a few minutes later. But that’s when the fun really started.
Inside four minutes left in regulation the two teams were still trading scores, but it was two defensive stands by the Bulldogs that came up clutch. Suggs’ block of Cody Riley led to a slam in transition by Drew Timme, and Timme’s taken charge on Juzang at the end of regulation helped send the game into an extra session.
Timme, who played staunch defense in the late stages despite being saddled with four fouls, used his offense to give the Zags an advantage in OT, scoring the first six points of the period for GU. On the flipside, Juzang was kept off the ball for much of the period, not scoring until the final seconds. Despite this, it was still only a two-point Gonzaga lead when Juzang drove to the rim with less than ten seconds to play, tying the game after putting back his own shot. His score set the stage for Suggs, and I’ll let Jalen and Jim Nantz take this one away:
Drew Timme ended up leading the Zags with 25 points, while Joel Ayayi finished with a career high 22. Johnny Juzang was a problem all game long and led all scorers with 29.
There you have it folks, an instant classic, and the second national title game for Gonzaga in the last four NCAA tournaments. They will play Baylor on Monday night, a matchup we have been salivating for all season. I can’t wait.