Unbeaten Gonzaga Ends UCLA's Impressive NCAA in Overtime Thriller, 93-90

Jalen Suggs' 3-Pointer at the Buzzer Keeps Alive Zags' Title Dreams
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UCLA had an answer for every Gonzaga shot on Saturday night in the Final Four.

Until the last one.

Freshman Jalen Suggs banked in a 40-foot running 3-pointer as time expired in overtime and unbeaten Gonzaga (31-0) advanced to the national championship game with a 93-90 victory over the Bruins (22-10).

Gonzaga, attempting to become the first unbeaten national champion since Indiana in 1976, will play Baylor (27-2) on Monday night.

UCLA was spectacular in defeat, led by 29 points from Johnny Juzang and clutch performances from most of its roster.

The Zags never trailed in overtime. Drew Timme, who scored 25 points, put in three quick baskets and Gonzaga led 87-83. Cody Riley, who played a terrific game for the Bruins, made a jumper to cut the margin go 87-85 with 2:06 left.

Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard made a 3-pointer with 1:13 left for a 90-85 lead. But Jaime Jaquez made one of his own for UCLA, making it a two-point game. The Bruins got one more chance and Juzang drove the lane, missed the shot but converted the putback with 3.3 seconds left.

Suggs, expected to be a top-3 NBA draft pick, dribbled quickly upcourt and released his shot 2 steps past the midcourt line. The banked in and Suggs ran to the sideline, jumping onto the scorer’s table to celebrating an astonishing finish to a splendid game.

Second-year UCLA coach Mick Cronin had nothing but praise for his team.

"Obviously everybody's going to ask what I just told my team. So I'll just tell you. I just told them they've got to let the last shot go. And as much as they want to be beat down right now and gutted and miserable, they've got to let it go because they're winners. They won," Cronin said. 

"As a coach, all you can do is ask your players to give you everything they've got. And I mean, come on guys, all you've got to do is watch."

No. 11 seed UCLA ended Gonzaga’s NCAA-record string of 27 consecutive double-digit wins and had its own unlikely tournament dash halted after starting with a First Four win over Michigan State and playing its third overtime game in the event.

The Bruins, playing in their first Final Four since 2008, also got 19 points from Jaquez, 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists by Cody Riley and 17 points from Tyger Campbell. Juzang, who entered the game averaging 21.6 points through five tournament games, was brilliant while playing in front of his brother, who flew 25 hours from Vietnam to watch the game.

Joel Ayayi had 22 points for Gonzaga, which has won 35 straight games dating back to last year, and Suggs wound up with 16, one more than Corey Kispert.

Suggs also paid tribute to the Bruins.

"UCLA is a great team. They deserve a lot of credit. A lot of credit," he said. "Coming from the First Four game to the Final Four, putting up the fight they gave us. They deserve all the credit in the world.

"They have shot makers, and big-time shot makers in Johnny Juzang, Jaime. Tyger played great. Cody played great. That team is special."

The game was played at a high level, with UCLA shooting 58 percent and Gonzaga converting 59 percent. Each team had just 10 turnovers in a 45-minute game. 

The Bruins, down most of the second half, went up 71-70 by a stop-and-go layup by Tiger Campbell with 6:06 left. Gonzaga had three key players — Timme, Suggs and Ayayi — each nursing three fouls, so things looked good for UCLA.

Timme then picked up his fourth at 4:41 but Kispert delivered a 3-pointer for a 75-74 Gonzaga lead with 4:28 to play.

The lead flipped back to the Bruins when freshman Jalen Suggs went to double Cody Riley, who found wide-open Juzang for a 3-pointer. He made it and UCLA led 77-75 with 2:57 left. Suggs tied it moments later then made a spectacular defensive play, blocking a dunk try by Riley before feeding Timme for a transition dunk.

Juzang answered with another basket and the game was tied at 79-all with 1:27 left. Kispert put the Zags back in front with a putback shot at 58 seconds before Jaime Jaquez converted two free throws with 43.1 seconds left to tie it at 81-all.

The game went to OT when Timme — with four fouls — stood his ground in the lane and drew a charge from Juzang on a drive with 1 second left.

The Bruins saw Jules Bernard go to the bench with his fourth foul just 11 seconds into the second half, and Gonzaga took back the lead and held it for all but about 20 seconds deep into the period.

Despite the fact that Gonzaga led 45-44 at the break, the Bruins kept the pace mostly were they wanted it in the first half. They stretched possessions and generally got good looks at the end of the shot clock.

UCLA led for more than 13 minutes of the half, and by as many as six points. Gonzaga held the lead for just under 6 minutes and never was up by more than three points.

Over the first four games of the NCAA tournament, Gonzaga had trailed for barely 10 minutes of 160.

The Zags used back-to-back 3-pointers from Suggs and Kispert in the final 2 minutes to cut into UCLA’s lead and a mid-range jumper by Kispert with 3 seconds left put Gonzaga up by one at intermission.

UCLA needed a sharp offensive performance to stay with the Zags and made 58 percent of its first-half shots (15 for 26), led by Juzang, who scored 15 points on 6-for-8 accuracy.

Campbell and Jaquez had nine and eight points, respectively, for the Bruins, although Campbell was limited to 10 minutes after picking up his second personal foul.

Gonzaga, which leads the nation in scoring, field-goal percentage and 2-point field-goal percentage, followed its usual script. The Zags shot 61 percent (17 for 28), scored 24 points in the paint and had assists on 13 of 17 baskets.

Ayayi, an all-around standout for the Zags but just their No. 4 scorer, had 16 points on 6-for-6 shooting in the first half. UCLA turned the ball over just five times in the period but Gonzaga showed its open-court efficiency by turning those takeaways into nine points.

Cover photo by Richard Deutsch, USA Today

 Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo