While this NCAA Tournament has brought plenty of upsets and a good deal of drama early on, it didn’t have a true signature game. That changed in a major way with tonight’s incredible Final Four duel between 1-seed Gonzaga and 11-seed UCLA.
There were plenty of storylines entering this one. Gonzaga, in the state of Indiana, is playing to be the first undefeated team since 1976 Hoosiers. To get to the national title, they had to go through UCLA, both one of the most historic programs in the sport with 11 national titles, but also a blue blood that has struggled to reach those heights over the last few decades. In some ways, both of these schools are the powerhouses and underdog darlings at the same time.
Gonzaga entered tonight’s semifinal game as a 14.5-point favorite. The Bulldogs have barely been challenged this year, winning by over 23 points per game, and running through the NCAA Tournament without much drama. Only one Gonzaga game had been decided by less than double-digits.
Tonight’s game was one of the closest you’ll ever see. Rarely was either team up by more than two baskets. Both teams shot the ball exceptionally well, with Gonzaga at 58.7-percent and UCLA at 57.6-percent. Regulation ended on an impressive defensive play by Gonzaga star Drew Timme, taking a charge on what could have been a game-winning shot by UCLA star Johnny Juzang, effectively forcing overtime at 81-81.
Nice crossover by Juzang to get by Suggs. Great job by Timme of stepping up to take a charge. pic.twitter.com/SQ5chbypkB
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) April 4, 2021
Timme continued to exert his will on the game in overtime, scoring the Zags’ first three baskets of the period. UCLA stemmed the tide with a big Cody Riley three, but Andrew Nembhard answered with a massive stepback three to push the score to 90-85 with under a minute left. Jaime Jaquez cut things back to two with a massive three, and after a huge stop, Johnny Juzang tied things at 90 with just three seconds left.
Those three seconds were plenty for superstar guard Jalen Suggs to drill a shot that will be replayed every March until the end of time.
Gonzaga will play for a national championship and an undefeated season on Monday night against Baylor, giving us the matchup we’ve been waiting for all year.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 4, 2021
There’s no way else to describe it. This is one of the best college basketball games we’ve ever seen, and maybe the single best sporting event we’ve had during these brutal last 13 months. What a treat we all got to witness tonight.
Dear Gonzaga and UCLA,
Thank you for giving us the best NCAA Tournament game that we've seen in years.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 4, 2021
What an incredible March madness game. It’s what we love about it. UCLA played out of their minds. Amazing effort. Has their chances to win. But Gonzaga made more plays. They are legit.
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) April 4, 2021
I feel sorry for anyone who missed this Gonzaga/UCLA game.
— Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) April 4, 2021
honestly, just an instant classic. what a perfect game. unreal shotmaking from UCLA. Gonzaga gets tested. Incredible multiple buzzer beater finish. Unreal.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) April 4, 2021
As entertaining a college basketball game as I've ever seen. Hats off to UCLA and Gonzaga for putting on such a show.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 4, 2021
A classic game with an all-time ending. pic.twitter.com/VUxuOsNNlW
— Chris Vannini 😷💉 (@ChrisVannini) April 4, 2021
Jalen Suggs with perhaps the sequence of the year. UNREAL.
Gonzaga UCLA is off the rails. pic.twitter.com/NqL7USHKR0
— TJ Eckert (@TJEckertKTUL) April 4, 2021
OMG this Gonzaga vs UCLA game pic.twitter.com/lGTxQSAtMt
— George Jarjour (@GeorgeOnTap) April 4, 2021
What a great game. Fantastic effort by UCLA but a classic example of survive and advance. Jalen Suggs keeps the unbeaten season alive. Nothing like March Madness.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) April 4, 2021
Of course, there’s always that guy. You can probably guess who it was tonight.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 4, 2021
Gonzaga vs. Baylor tips off on Monday night at 9:20 p.m. ET.