At halftime on Saturday night, UCLA coach Mick Cronin challenged his team to stay close for another 10 minutes and then be able to increase the pressure on unbeaten Gonzaga.
The perfect combination created a masterpiece of a college basketball game. It just didn’t lead to a win for the Parley Bruins.
After UCLA star Johnny Juzang’s basket with 3.3 seconds left in overtime tied things up at 90, Jalen Suggs responded with a 3-point buzzer to send the undefeated Bulldogs into their second. national championship game and the Bruins at home to think about closeness. they have come to add another memorable chapter to the school’s rich history.
“When Johnny had the hindsight I was out of time so I was running over my guys to get their attention to trap the ball and they came in late,” said Bruins coach Mick Cronin. “It’s not their fault because we trained them to come back because Gonzaga is so fast. If you watch the movie, I was trying to get them up so that he (Suggs) couldn’t fit into this shot. Still, it was a bank shot from half the court. “
UCLA (22-10) played this one a little different than what they got thanks to their incredible tournament tour that started in the top four. The Bruins often traded baskets with Gonzaga (31-0), one of the most prolific scoring teams in the country, and did not allow the Zags to participate in one of their marquee races.
The Bruins also made sure to keep things slow, deliberate, and tense.
Juzang finished with 29 points to lead the Bruins, trying to become the first No. 11 seeds to reach the championship game. Afterward, stunned UCLA players gathered as officials watched a replay review to make sure the shot was fired on time. It was.
“We went to fight,” Juzang said. “We are out, there is no better way, there is no regrets. Everyone fought until the last game and the last move is the last. “
UCLA can take comfort in doing something no other team has done this season in forcing the Zags into extra time. He just couldn’t shut Gonzaga off to continue an incredible playoff run that included overtime wins over Michigan State and Alabama, runaways over BYU and Abilene Christian and fending off seeded Michigan. to join VCU as the only teams to go from first. Four to the last four.
The Bruins also fought for the pride of the school.
Only seven Division I teams and four schools have been undefeated national champions. Only UCLA has done it more than once, celebrating perfect seasons in 1963-64, 1966-67, 1971-72 and 1972-73. The last team to accomplish this feat was the Indiana Hoosiers from 1975 to 1976.
Since then, two undefeated teams had reached a Final Four in Indianapolis and lost – UNLV to Duke in 1991, Kentucky to Wisconsin in 2015. Gonzaga is third and the Zags, too, were in an aerial fight.
“Everyone is going to ask what I just said to my team, so I’m just going to tell you: I told them they had to let the last blow go,” Cronin said. “Even if they want to be slaughtered and gutted and miserable, they have to let go because they are winners. All you can ask your players as a coach is to give it their all. “
The Bruins have certainly done their part.
Whenever it looked like Gonzaga could get away, they fought straight away – methodically erasing a 64-57 deficit midway through the second half. And it looked like they might win in settlement until Juzang was called in for a charge with less than a second to go.
In overtime, Gonzaga took an early 87-83 lead, but when they couldn’t put it away, the Bruins capitalized. Cody Riley hit a 15 footer. The Zags responded with a 3-point Andrew Nembhard to reach 90-85 with 1:15 to go and yet the Bruins tied things up at 90 – only to see their effort fail when Suggs’ magic shot set in. Monday night’s game. College basketball fans have been waiting all season to watch – Gonzaga vs. Baylor.
“Congratulations to them, it’s a very good team,” said Juzang. “But we’re UCLA and the guys on this team, there’s no one I prefer to fight with. And we expect to win. We are who we are and in every game we went out and we left him there and let the best man win.
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