The two highest-ranked teams at the Battle 4 Atlantis were placed on opposite sides of the bracket with the chance they'd meet in the championship game.
Both the Bulldogs (3-1) and Huskies (4-1) hoped this matchup would have more importance than playing for a consolation prize. Gonzaga led No. 25 Texas A&M for much of Thursday's semifinal contest but finished just 4 of 11 from the free-throw line and fell 62-61.
"I was proud of our guys, especially in the second half I thought we really toughened up," said coach Mark Few, whose team made 30 of 44 free throws in an 80-64 quarterfinal win over Washington on Wednesday. "We just missed a ton of free throws where we could have extended that lead."
The Aggies shot 44.7 percent from the field after the Bulldogs held their first three opponents to 29.9 percent. The opposition is averaging just 58.5 points per game, but Gonzaga scored its fewest points of the season after finishing with at least 80 in its first three.
"We played great defensively and held them to six baskets (in the second half)," Few said. "And the way we were playing defense it probably would have been good enough to get us over the hump."
Part of the reason UConn is in the third-place game is because of its struggles from the field in the semifinals. It shot a season-low 43.3 percent and committed a season-high 13 turnovers in a 79-76 loss to Syracuse.
The Huskies also were outrebounded 41-33 after holding a plus-9.8 average through their first four. They struggled against Syracuse's zone defense and couldn't get much going down low, attempting 26 3-pointers and hitting 10.
UConn held its first four opponents to 33.2 percent shooting, but the Orange made 47.9 percent from the floor and hit 9 of 20 from 3-point range. They also shot 39 free throws, 11 more than any other UConn opponent.
''The second half they really just took it to us offensively,'' coach Kevin Ollie said. ''We were in a drought in the first half and the second half and really allowed them to take over the game, and in transition they really hurt us with the 3s.''
The sophomore has been more aggressive in this tournament, going a combined 14 of 27 from the field after shooting 9 for 22 over his first three.
"We've got to learn from it," Hamilton said. "Bounce back and recover. We didn't get back on defense and that's what we got to key in on."
Gonzaga and UConn haven't met since 2008, but this contest also could be a tight battle if history is an indication. The last four matchups have been decided by a total of 15 points, with the Huskies winning three.