UCLA’s bid for an upset of undefeated Gonzaga fell narrowly short Saturday evening as Jalen Suggs made an approximately 40-foot 3-point basket as time expired in overtime to give the Bulldogs a 93-90 victory in a national semifinal game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The Bruins had tied the score when Johnny Juzang grabbed the rebound of his missed jump shot and made a layup with three seconds to play.
UCLA had a chance to win the game in regulation but Juzang was called for an offensive foul with one second left, forcing the Bruins into overtime for the third time in their six games in the tournament.
“These guys, they deserved a better ending, but like I told them, as coach Wooden would say, true greatness is giving your best effort and that’s what they did,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said, referring to the late Bruins coach John Wooden who guided UCLA to 10 national championships between 1964 and 1975.
The Bruins never led in the overtime. After UCLA junior forward Cody Riley made a jump shot to tie the score, 83-83, with 4:21 left, Drew Timme made back-to-back layups for Gonzaga.
Riley made a jump shot with two minutes, seven seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 87-85. Andrew Nembhard made a 3-point basket to give the Bulldogs a 90-85 lead with 1:15 to play. UCLA pulled back within two, 90-88, on Jamie Jaquez Jr.’s 3-point basket with 48 seconds left.
Juzang scored a game-high 29 points to lead four Bruins in double figures. Jaquez added 19, Tyger Campbell 17 and Riley 14 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Timme led Gonzaga (31-0) with 25. Joel Ayai added 22, Suggs 16, Corey Kispert 15 and Nembhard 11 as the Bulldogs extended their school-record winning streak to 35 games. However, their NCAA Division I record 26-game winning streak by at least 10 points ended.
There were 19 lead changes and 15 ties. UCLA’s biggest lead was six, 36-30, 4:35 before halftime. Gonzaga’s biggest lead was seven, 64-57, with 11:54 remaining in regulation and 66-59, with 11:21 left in regulation.
The Bruins trailed 45-44 at halftime.
The loss ended an unlikely tournament run for UCLA (22-10) which was seeded 11th in the East Region and 44th in the 68-team field.
As one of the lowest four seeded at-large teams the Bruins were required to play in the First Four, where they defeated Michigan State, 86-80, March 18 in overtime, rallying from a 14-point first-half deficit.
UCLA defeated sixth-seeded Brigham Young, 73-62, in an East Region first-round game March 20 and 14th-seeded Abilene Christian, 67-47, in a second-round game March 22.
The Bruins upset second-seeded Alabama, 88-78, in overtime in a Sweet 16 game Sunday, and top-seeded Michigan, 88-78, in an Elite Eight game Tuesday, advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 2008.
UCLA joined Virginia Commonwealth as the only teams to go from the First Four to the Final Four. The Rams accomplished the feat in 2011 when the First Four was first held in connection with the tournament’s expanded from 65 teams to 68.
The Bruins were seeking to advance to the national championship game for the 14th time and first since 2006.
The Bulldogs will face Baylor in Monday’s championship game. The Bears defeated Houston, 78-59, in the first national semifinal earlier Saturday. Gonzaga will seek to become the eighth team to win a national championship with an undefeated record and the first since Indiana went 32-0 in the 1975-76 season.
The Bulldogs are the tournament’s No. 1 seeded team while Baylor is seeded second.
This will be Gonzaga’s second appearance in the championship game. The Bulldogs lost to North Carolina, 71-65, in the 2017 championship game, their only previous Final Four appearance.
The Bears will be making their second national championship game appearance. They lost to Kentucky, 58-42, in the 1948 championship game.
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