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Gonzaga Advances to National Championship After Defeating UCLA in Instant Classic

Saturday night 1-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs and 11-seeded UCLA Bruins met in a Final Four game that will go down in college basketball history. 

Gonzaga came into the game after beating 6-seeded USC 85-66 in the Elite 8. They come into the Final Four with a perfect 30-0 record. Gonzaga has been the number 1 team all season, and many expected them to be in the Final Four. They are led by their big 3 of Drew Timme (19 PPG, 7.2 RPG), Corey Kispert (18.9 PPG, 5 RPG), and Jalen Suggs (14 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG). 

UCLA defeated 1-seeded Michigan 51-49 in the Elite 8. They’ve had a great season posting a 22-9 record. While UCLA had a great year, no one predicted the run they would go on in March, from the First Four to the Final Four.  They are led by Johnny Juzang (15.5 PPG, 4 RPG) and Jaime Jaquez Jr (12.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG). 

First Half 

The first half set the pace for this game. Both teams would go back and forth, trading buckets for the first twenty minutes. Gonzaga was on fire, shooting 60.7% from the field in the first. UCLA wouldn’t be outdone, though, as they shot 57.7% from the field. UCLA was able to outrebound Gonzaga 14-11 in the first. After shooting hot and holding a slim rebounding advantage, UCLA held a 6-point lead in the first.  They would hold the lead for much of the half. Gonzaga star Corey Kispert would drain a jumper with 2.5 seconds to go in the half. Kispert’s last-second shot would give Gonzaga a 45-44 halftime lead. 

Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi scored 10 of his team’s first 20 points. Ayayi would finish the first half with 16 points as well as 2 rebounds. Timme scored 8 points, grabbed 2 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists in the first half. Suggs and Kispert both scored 7 in the first half for Gonzaga. 

Johnny Juzang led UCLA in the first. Juzang stepped up like he has all tournament, scoring 15 points in the first half. Tyger Campbell scored 9 points and dished out 2 assists in the first half for UCLA. 

Second Half

The intensity and back and forth play from the first continued after halftime. Every time it seemed as if Gonzaga was about to pull away, UCLA would find a way to get a bucket. Both teams were so resilient as the lead continued to trade hands throughout the second half. It became apparent that neither team was willing to go away in this one, and the game was going to come down to the buzzer. 

Both teams would trade buckets down the stretch. With just 18 seconds left and the score tied at 81-81, UCLA found themselves with possession of the ball and a chance to win. Juzang would drive to the hole, but Gonzaga’s Timme would draw him in for charge with just 1 second left. The charge would bring an end to regulation and send the game to overtime. 

Overtime

Overtime quickly became Timme time. The Gonzaga star scored 6 quick points to give Gonzaga an early 87-83 OT lead. UCLA refused to go away, though. Cody Riley would make a jumper to cut Gonzaga’s lead down to 2. Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard then made what appeared to be a dagger 3-point shot putting them up 5 with 1:16 to go. UCLA would get a quick 3-pointer from Jaquez Jr. to cut the lead back down to 2 with 50 seconds to play in OT.

Gonzaga would miss a 3-pointer on their next possession, and UCLA would have a chance for a tie or the win with 22 seconds to play. They gave the ball to their star Juzang. Juzang would drive to the hoop and miss a layup, but he would get his own offensive rebound and make a layup to tie the game 90-90 with 3 seconds to play. Gonzaga would not hesitate. Jalen Suggs was able to sink a shot from near midcourt at the buzzer to keep Gonzaga’s perfect season alive and send his team to the National Championship.

Jalen Suggs finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and one of the biggest college basketball shots in history. Timme had a huge game, scoring 25 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Ayayi had a big game, too, finishing with 22 points and 6 rebounds in the win for Gonzaga. 

UCLA left it all out on the court in this one. Juzang made big bucket after big bucket again as he has for much of this tournament. He finished with 29 points and 6 rebounds. Jaquez Jr. finished with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Campbell scored 17 points and dished out 7 assists. After becoming the Cinderella team in this tournament, UCLA’s run comes to a heartbreaking end. 

With the win, Gonzaga will advance to the National Championship, where they will face 1-seeded Baylor. Baylor earned their spot in the championship game by defeating 2-seeded Houston 78-59.  

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