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Jalen Suggs' buzzer-beating heave stuns UCLA, sends Gonzaga to national title game

Jason Owens
·5-min read

Gonzaga's Final Four matchup was supposed to be a walkover. 

Instead, the Bulldogs won an all-time thriller to advance past UCLA.

After Gonzaga survived a close call at the end of regulation, Jalen Suggs capped overtime with a prayer of a buzzer-beater to send the Bulldogs to a 93-90 win and into Monday's national title game against Baylor. 

Wild final sequence keeps Gonzaga's perfect season alive

With 3.3 seconds left on the clock, UCLA's Johnny Juzang had just tied the game, seemingly setting up the second overtime with a putback of his own miss in traffic. But Suggs took the inbounds pass, dribbled the ball over halfcourt, saw an opening from well beyond the 3-point line and launched a shot from Damian Lillard range.

Before it bounced off the backboard and through the net as the buzzer sounded, Suggs was already running off the court as if he knew it was good.

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"That’s something you practice on your mini-hoop as a kid, just messing around," Suggs said after the game. ... It’s juts crazy. ... 

"Stuff like this is something your dream of as a kid. That was one of the most special games I've ever been a part of."

Gonzaga almost didn't survive regulation

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga won 93-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Jalen Suggs kept Gonzaga's perfect season afloat in stunning fashion. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Bulldogs withstood a scorching-hot UCLA shooting effort throughout and a close call in the final of second of regulation just to force the extra session. With a chance to win the game in regulation, Juzang broke free on a screen and attacked the basket with the game tied at 81. But Drew Timme, playing with four fouls, stepped in Juzang's path to draw a charge that kept Gonzaga's national title hopes alive.

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2 best teams will play for national title

The win was an unfamiliar close call for Gonzaga, which had won its previous 27 matchup by double digits. West Virginia was the last team to challenge Gonzaga in an 87-82 Bulldogs win on Dec. 2. 

But Gonzaga was up to the test on Saturday and advances to face a Baylor team that dismantled Houston in Saturday's other national semifinal. At the end of a tournament rife with upsets, the nation's two best teams will meet for the NCAA championship. 

Underdog Bruins give Zags a big test

UCLA punched Gonzaga out of the gate, racing out to a 17-13 lead while holding Suggs and potential fellow lottery pick Corey Kispert scoreless for the first 8:44.

The Bruins shot 57.7% from the field and 57.1% from 3-point distance while turning the ball over just five times in a nearly flawless offensive first half. But they trailed at the break after a Kispert jumper in the final seconds with 4 seconds capped an equally impressive Gonzaga half and gave the Bulldogs a 45-44 edge at the break.

But UCLA didn't wilt in the second half and continued to trade punches with the nation's best team while keeping hope of its unlikely run as a No. 11 seed alive. Juzang led the charge for UCLA, concluding his red-hot tournament run with a 29-point effort to lead the Bruins to the brink of another upset. 

But the Bulldogs — seeking their first national championship — would not be denied. 

Timme, Ayayi pace Gonzaga

As Suggs and Kispert struggled early, it was Joel Ayayi who countered UCLA's hot start. The junior guard scored Gonzaga's first seven points en route to a 26-point, six-rebound effort. 

As the Bruins hung around in the second half, Timme paced the Bulldogs with a team-high 25 points in addition to collecting the season-saving charge. On a night the Kispert struggled from 3-point distance (2-of-8), Timme was Gonzaga's most reliable weapon on an 11-of-15 shooting night from the field. 

Suggs comes up big when it matters most

Meanwhile, Suggs found his rhythm late after being held off the scoreboard until 7:25 remained in the first half. And he came up with a pair of plays for the NCAA tournament archives. He likely wouldn't have had a chance at his game winner were it not for a remarkable sequence to retake the lead in the final minutes of regulation.

With the game tied a 77, UCLA's 6-9 forward Cody Riley drove hard to the rim with plans to dunk his way to a Bruins lead. Suggs, a 6-4 guard, wasn't having it. Suggs met Riley at the rim, blocked his dunk, collected the rebound and found Timme with a pinpoint bounce pass through traffic for a fast-break layup.  

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It was the kind of play that will send Suggs to the NBA as a surefire lottery pick in this summer's draft. 

But for now, Suggs has his sights set on history. The now 31-0 Bulldogs just survived their toughest game of the season and stand a win away from the first perfect season in college basketball since Indiana's undefeated run to a championship in 1976.

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