The first half looked like UCLA was going to coast to a trip to the Elite 8.
But they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.
The three-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs overcame the tremendous deficit, and not without stress at the end, to win an instant classic over No. 2 UCLA, 79-76.
The Bulldogs were down 46-33 at the half, but something was said in the locker room that made them look like a totally different team when everyone returned to the floor.
The Bulldogs fought all the way back (rather quickly) turning what seemed like an insurmountable deficit into, well, the same thing – just the other way around. The Bulldogs went on a 20-3 run at one point in the second half to lead by 10 with 2:30 to go.
But UCLA was not dead. They fought all the way back to trail by two with less than 35 seconds to go. After Drew Timme missed a pair of free throws, UCLA had a chance to win on the final shot.
They didn’t save it for the last second, but Amari Bailey hit a three-pointer to put the Bruins back up one with 12.4 ticks to play.
But the Bulldogs had a chance to save themselves one final time, and they cashed in – Julian Strawther answered back with a three of his own with 7.2 seconds left, and after UCLA turned the ball over, Strawther knocked another free throw to put Gonzaga up three. The Bruins’ half-court heave at the buzzer bricked off the rim.
Timme may have slowed down toward the end, but for the first 30 minutes of the contest, he was nothing short of dominant. He netted 33 of Zaga’s first 56 points – he finished with 36 points and 13 rebounds.
Gonzaga bullied the Bruins on the glass, outrebounding them 50-26.
Gonzaga will not face fourth-seeded UConn in the Elite 8 on Saturday in Las Vegas after the Huskies’ dominant win over No. 8 Arkansas.