Gonzaga defeated UCLA in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament 79-76 thanks to a last-second 3-pointer by Julian Strawther. Amari Bailey had made the previous 3-pointer for UCLA.
The No. 1 team in the West Region, the Bruins (31-6), defeated No. 2 seed, stormed back from an eight-point deficit in the final 1:05 and took a 76-75 lead on With 12.2 seconds left, Bailey made a 3-pointer.
As Strawther stepped into a 3-pointer for the Zags (31-5) to score, Gonzaga supporters rose to their feet.
Malachi Smith of Gonzaga stole the ball from Tyger Campbell of UCLA, but Strawther only made one of his two free throw attempts at the other end, giving the Bruins a chance.
The Zags came off the bench and into the Elite Eight against UConn on Saturday after Campbell’s last-second 3-pointer hit the back of the rim.
Strawther’s shot, off a drop pass, was reminiscent of the one Villanova’s Kris Jenkins made to clinch the 2016 national championship.
It’s the second time Gonzaga has beaten UCLA on a last-second shot in the NCAA Tournament. When the game was about to end, Jalen Suggs destroyed the Bruins by making a running 3-pointer to advance the Gonzaga Zags to the 2021 national championship game.
Beginning with a game of wild swings in which each team took turns landing blows, the chaotic finish resembled more of a prize fight. Gonzaga led by 10 with 2:30 left in the game as UCLA was in the midst of an 11-minute stretch without a field goal. Gonzaga had a 13-point lead at the half. From there, the Bruins fought back to take the lead.
Drew Timme, who scored a school-record 20 points in his tenth NCAA Tournament game, led the Zags with 36 points.
However, Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored on a three-point play and a layup to cut it 74-71 with 45 seconds left. The subsequent missed free throws by Timme led to Bailey’s shot.
Fortunately for the Zags, Strawther’s long 3-point attempt connected, sending them to the Elite Eight for the fifth time under coach Mark Few.
Jaquez scored 29 points in total and pulled down 11 rebounds.