Jalen Suggs’ OT buzzer-beater lifts Gonzaga over UCLA, into title game
Mark Few saw Jalen Suggs getting ready to loft the shot that would keep Gonzaga’s national championship hopes alive and he wasn’t the least bit concerned.
Not even a tiny fraction. Not even a millimeter of doubt.
Suggs banked in the running 35-foot, 3-pointer as time expired in overtime and top-seeded Gonzaga survived a major scare to remain unbeaten with a 93-90 victory over UCLA in a national semifinal of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
“He’s got that magical aura,” Few said of the star point guard. “He makes them in practice all the time. It’s been crazy this year how many he’s made in practice — last-second shots. I felt pretty good. I was staring right at it. And I said, ‘It’s in.’ And it was.”
The historic shot earned the Bulldogs (31-0) a date with fellow top seed Baylor (27-2) in Monday night’s national title game. Gonzaga will be aiming to become the first unbeaten champion since Indiana in 1976.
It looked like the classic contest might be headed to a second overtime when UCLA’s Johnny Juzang rebounded his own miss to score with 3.3 seconds left to tie it at 90.
But Suggs received the ball and scooted upcourt to heave the dramatic shot that gave Gonzaga its 35th consecutive win.
“It’s amazing. Stuff like this is something you dream up as a kid and you practice on a mini hoop,” Suggs said of the miraculous game-winning shot. “But it was a great shot. Crazy shot. It was special.”
Drew Timme scored six of his 25 points in overtime, Joel Ayayi added 22 points and Suggs recorded 16 points, six assists and five rebounds for Gonzaga. Corey Kispert tallied 15 points and Andrew Nembhard had 11 points and eight assists for the Bulldogs.
Juzang scored 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting for 11th-seeded UCLA (22-10). Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 19 points, Tyger Campbell tallied 17 points and seven assists, and Cody Riley had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bruins.
UCLA was the second team to reach the Final Four after starting the tournament in the First Four. Virginia Commonwealth (2011) is the other.
Bruins coach Mick Cronin has been quick to remind people that nobody had given his team a shot at making a tournament run.
After his team nearly pulled off an upset for the ages, he was most interested in making sure his players understood their accomplishments.
“What else can I ask from those guys? I can’t ask for anything more,” Cronin said. “Obviously, I can ask for a different result but my message to those guys is to not let that shot ruin what they have done.
“We might not have cut down the nets but we will get another chance at that, God willing. But they gave me everything I’ve asked of them.”
Gonzaga’s Division I record of 27 straight double-digit victories came to an end. West Virginia is the only other team to lose by single digits against Gonzaga — 87-82 on Dec. 2.
Timme scored three baskets in the first 100 seconds of overtime as the Bulldogs took an 87-83 lead. Riley knocked down a 15-footer to move UCLA within two with 2:07 remaining but Nembhard knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 90-85 with 1:15 remaining.
Jaquez connected on a 3-pointer and Juzang added his hoop to set the scene for Suggs.
“Even when we got down five in overtime, we found a way to tie it,” Cronin said. “Just an unbelievable effort from my guys.”
Kispert’s putback gave the Bulldogs an 81-79 lead with 57.3 seconds left in regulation. Jaquez made two free throws with 43.1 seconds to go before UCLA found itself in overtime for the third time in this NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga shot 58.7 percent from the field — including 7 of 21 from 3-point range — and had edges of 56-24 in points in the paint and 15-0 in fast-break points.
The Bruins made 57.6 percent of their shots and were 8 of 17 from behind the arc.
Ayayi scored 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting as Gonzaga shot 60.7 percent from the field and led 45-44 at the break. Juzang had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting for UCLA, which shot 57.7 percent.
–Field Level Media