2021 NCAA Final Four score: Gonzaga survives UCLA with buzzer-beater in OT, advances to national title game

2021 NCAA Final Four score: Gonzaga survives UCLA with buzzer-beater in OT, advances to national title game

Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs banked in a desperation 3-pointer to beat the buzzer in overtime to give the Zags a 93-90 victory over upset-minded UCLA in a memorable Final Four game Saturday. No. 1 seed Gonzaga had won 29 of its 30 games by double-digits entering the showdown with the No. 11 seed Bruins, but the Bulldogs finally had to survive a thriller to keep their perfect record intact

The Bruins gave the Zags everything they could handle before Gonzaga squeaked out the victory. UCLA’s Johnny Juzang tied it at 90 with a lay-up just seconds before Suggs’ heroics.

The Bulldogs, who are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, will advance to play No. 2 overall seed Baylor in Monday night’s national title game.

After scoring 28 points in a 51-49 victory Michigan in the Elite Eight on Tuesday, Juzang turned in another spectacular performance for UCLA with 29 points. But the 6-foot-6 sophomore was whistled for a charge with 1.1 seconds left in regulation while driving for a potential game-winning shot.

That call sent the game to overtime, and from there, Gonzaga center Drew Timme took over with six quick points in the opening two minutes of overtime. The star sophomore finished with 25 points for the Bulldogs, who improved to 31-0 with the victory.

Suggs is special

Suggs’ 3-pointer at the buzzer will go down in history, and rightfully so. But it wasn’t the first time that Suggs rescued Gonzaga. The star freshman registered the highlight of regulation when he came from behind to block Cody Riley’s dunk attempt with 2:00 remaining.

Then, he collected the rebound and rifled a spectacular bounce pass to Timme, who caught it in stride and dunked. The four-point swing put Gonzaga ahead by two and helped it gain momentum it would need to avoid a loss in regulation.

Lovable in defeat

The Bruins’ magical run began in the First Four with an overtime victory over Michigan State, and it ended with an overtime loss in the Final Four. In total, four of the Bruins’ final seven games went to overtime this season, dating back to a loss against Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament.

It’s hard to fathom a program with 11 national championships adopting the role of lovable underdog, but this group of UCLA players fit the bill. In particular, Juzang turned in a memorable NCAA Tournament. He became just the second player in UCLA’s storied history to record three 25-point games in a single NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

History still available

Gonzaga is seeking to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976, and Saturday’s narrow victory protected that opportunity. But Saturday may also have been an indication that the Zags are not invincible. After ripping through a series of overmatched opponents in the West Coast Conference and handling their first four NCAA Tournament opponents without much trouble, the Bulldogs were tested against UCLA.

The Bruins thrived in the mid-range game and proved that some of Gonzaga’s perimeter players are not great 1-on-1 defenders. If Juzang and UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. can break down the Bulldogs off the dribble, then Butler’s deep trio of guards could have success in attacking the basket and getting to favorable shooting spots as well.

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