Gonzaga-Baylor will have a lot to live up to. Before the national championship game everyone has wanted to see, Gonzaga and UCLA went toe to tie for 45 minutes in what wasn’t just the game of
Gonzaga-Baylor will have a lot to live up to.
Before the national championship game everyone has wanted to see, Gonzaga and UCLA went toe to tie for 45 minutes in what wasn’t just the game of the tournament — it was one of the all-time contests March Madness has ever seen.
Freshman Jalen Suggs’ buzzer-beating 30 footer off the glass sent the top-seeded Zags to Monday night’s national championship game with a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat 93-90 overtime victory Saturday night in Indianapolis, sending Cinderella No. 11 UCLA home in abject disappointment.
Gonzaga and fellow No. 1 seed Baylor will meet Monday night — four months to the day a non-conference showdown between the two powers was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols.
Drew Timme scored a team-high 25 points and Suggs had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists. Johnny Juzang had 29 for UCLA.
Timme scored the first six Gonzaga points of the extra session, as the Zags built a four-point lead. UCLA had a chance to draw even in transition after a rare turnover, but Juzang missed a baby jumper in the lane, and Andrew Nemhardt’s step back 3-pointer with 1:13 left extended the lead to give. But Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 48.1 seconds to go and Juzang’s follow knotted it up at 90.
After Cody Riley’s driving layup, UCLA was ahead by three with 5:14 left in regulation, making the massive upset seem possible. Corey Kispert’s 3-pointer with 4:31 left gave Gonzaga the lead back, and the Zags followed up by forcing consecutive turnovers.
They, however, couldn’t convert, and the lead ping-ponged back to UCLA on Juzang’s right-corner 3-pointer. Gonzaga called timeout, just 2:49 remaining on the clock. Suggs answered on the other end, sinking a fadeaway as the shot clock was running down.
Suggs then blocked Riley’s dunk, and set up Timme with a full court length bounce pass. After Johnny Juzang got UCLA even with a jumper, Timme put Gonzaga on top, getting to the offensive rebound of a Nemhardt miss and scored with 57.3 seconds to go. Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit two free throws to knot it up again, leaving 43.1 seconds left and ultimately forcing overtime.
UCLA shot 57 percent from the field in the first half. It made more 3-pointers (four) than it missed (three). It only turned the ball over five times. It kept the Gonzaga big three of Kispert, Timme and Suggs in check, And, yet, the Bruins still trailed at halftime.
Joel Ayayi picked up the slack from his bigger-named teammates, scoring 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting, and the Zags owned the paint, 24-8. UCLA was led by Juzang, who scored 15 points, and had the Bruins up six, at 36-30, after a jumper with 4:55 left in the stanza.
With Campbell and Jaquez on the bench with two fouls apiece, Gonzaga held the edge in the final minutes of the opening half, scoring eight of the last 11 points, and taking the lead into the break on Kispert’s jumper off a curl play.
The momentum didn’t carry over. Gonzaga didn’t pull away. The teams traded baskets and they traded stops. When David Singleton hit a left-wing 3-pointer, UCLA was ahead, the first time Gonzaga had trailed in the second half during the tournament.
The Zags finally went up by multiple possessions when Timme completed a three-point play with 12:25 remaining. The lead went to seven after a Nemhardt jumper. But UCLA didn’t wilt. It reeled off six in a row to draw back to within one. The Bruins weren’t going away.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Zach Braziller