(East Los Angeles, CA) April 4, 2021 [From The Editor’s Desk]: The stage at the “Big Dance” was also confirmed at the Final 4, for the West Coast battle for bragging rights, as #11 East Region’s seed, UCLA, was matched up with the Spokane, WA based #1 West Region seed, Gonzaga Bulldogs, in this second game of the semifinal contestants. But who would have believed what their eyes would see, during what will undeniably go down as a “Master’s Classic” in one of the 2021 NCAA’s “March Madness” Tournament, Final Four games. Millions in the nation as well millions more around the world were treated to one of the most exciting and dramatic college games they’ve seen in quite a stretch of time.
Like two veteran undefeated heavyweights fighting for world title, the Bruins and the Bulldogs certainly performed to their maximum talents, and lived up to the billing and the hype, as to who would be declared the winner. After (40:00) minutes of regulation play, a “no-decision” was rendered because both teams were tied at (81-81). And thus, by rule, an extra (5:00) minute overtime period was in order. But, as is our custom here, we first offer you our game summary.
(1st Half): Both teams went back & forth evenly for the first 5 minutes of the contest. At the first media time-out, (14:38), it was (10-9), Bruins. All Bruin starters had scored while being matched in a mesmerizing “solo” performance by Gonzaga’s guard, Joel Ayayi, who was on fire. The Zags were intent on driving to hoops for their points in the paint, while UCLA was settling for spreading the ball around and getting everyone involved offensively. In this game of runs, the teams had both types of runs, positive on makes, and negative on misses. Ayayi was the man of the moment for the Zags as he had put up their first 13 consecutive points. The Bruins held the lead at (23-21) inside the (10:00) minute mark of the period as the teams were now basically trading baskets. At (8:55) Drew Timme’s two free throws gave Gonzaga the lead back at (25-24), but then a Johnny Juzang 3-pointer gave the Bruins the lead back at (27-25). With under (8:00) minutes left, Juzang was then fouled in the act of shooting and made both free throws for a (29-26) cushion. A beautiful “back-door” play by the Zags cut the lead to (29-28). Next a timely Jules Bernard 3-pointer moved the score to (32-28), Bruins. Timme missed a (1+1) at (5:05) and that was followed by a nice Juzang 5 foot floater for a (34-28) lead. The Bruins led (34-30) with (4:53) left in the half. On another basket by Juzang, they stretched the lead to (36-30). Then in a blink of an eye, the Zags made a four point run to close at (36-34), on a Timme open court dunk. A Media time-out was called @4:00. After the rest period, center, Cody Riley answered with a dunk of his own on a great feed by Juzang, (38-34). Juzang next drew a foul and sank two free throws for a new Bruin four point lead at (39-35). A Gonzaga lay-in closed it to (39-37). UCLA reserve center, Jaylen Clark, then was sent to the stripe and made 2 for a lead at (41-37). But perimeter player, Corey Kispert, drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one point at (41-40). Juzang scored again with time running down for a (43-42) lead. Next, Clark went back to the free throw line and made 1-of-2 shots for a (44-42) lead. Gonzaga took a time-out with (00:27) seconds left. Then, on a Coach Mark Few designed out-of-bounds play, Kispert got open and made another of his patented “sniper shots” with (00.04) seconds left, to close the first half scoring with the advantage of (45-44), Gonzaga.
(1st Half Stats): (11) lead changes with (6) ties; UCLA FG % =58%, Gonzaga = 61%. Bruins half-court game with Juzang and Jaquez “1-on-1” matches were good, while Gonzaga dominated inside with (24) points in the paint.
(2nd Half): With just (00:11) seconds into the period, Jules Bernard was whistled for his 4th foul and was forced to leave the game. Zags made 1 for a (46-44) lead. Bruins were a little stagnant on their offensive perimeter shots to start the period. Jaylen Suggs answered with a bucket, and that was answered by Cody Riley with a jumper from the free throw line for a (48-48) tie. A nice “give & go” from Jaquez, Jr. gave the lead back to UCLA but a Timme layup tied it again at (50-50). Timme scored a layup for the lead at (52-50). Riley, starting to heat up, made a spin pivot dribble and “drop-step” to tie at (52-52). At this point there were (13) lead changes. Tyger Campbell, then stepped up and took a big charge. A media time-out was called at (16:00). Suggs then scored for another lead change, (54-52). The Bruins perked up on a David Singleton 3-pointer to re-take the lead at (55-54). Next play, Ayayi gets a rebound and a put-back, Zags go back up (56-55). After a Bruin turn-over, Zags get another Ayayi basket but it was answered by a Jaquez, Jr. 10′ jumper. The score was now (58-57). Timme was fouled and made a traditional 3 point play for a (61-57) lead. Another media time-out was taken at (12:08). And then in one of the strangest calls of the game, center, Cody Riley, as he was battling for a rebound, got tangled up with a player, and was whistled for an NCAA officiating rule book call of a “Flagrant-1 Technical Foul” called a “hook & hold.”
The Zags made made 1 free throw and were then awarded the ball out-of-bounds at half-court. The stoppage of play did not favor either team, but the momentum certainly was affected as several minutes were used by the officials to review the play due to the nature and severity of the call. Then, with this advantage, Gonzaga padded its lead, as Andrew Nembhard hit a jumper for a (64-59) lead. Timme scored again for (66-59). With (9:52) left, Campbell found his stroke for a 3-pointer, cutting the lead to four at (66-62). Campbell was then fouled in the act of shooting and made one, (66-63). After a travel call on the Zags, Juzang hit again, (66-65), now down by one. On being awarded for the alternating possession, at (8:45), a dunk was thrown down by Kispert on the throw-in, (68-65). Campbell struck again on a jumper from the free throw line, (69-67). Juzang then scored on a jumper from the free throw line to move the score to (70-69). Campbell took another charge and it was UCLA’s ball with (6:52) left. After Riley missed a hard put-back after a pass from Campbell, Tyger made one of the best moves of the game when he made a 3-foot left-handed “drop-step” bank shot for the lead, (71-70). Media time-out was called at (6:04). It was Bruins ball with (5:30) remaining when Riley pivoted in the key for a score. That was answered right back by Ayayi, (73-72). Juzang drew a shooting fouled and made one, making it (74-72) Bruins. Kispert answered with an open 3-pointer for the lead at (75-74). After the media time-out at (03:54) Juzang hit a big 3-pointer, retaking the lead at (77-75). Suggs came back with an 8′ jumper to tie at (77-77). At (02:16), a second big play of the game by the Zags occurred when Suggs blocked from behind a two-handed dunk by Riley. The result was a laser-like bounce pass from the Zags backcourt to a streaking Timme who went in for a slam-dunk, (79-77), Zags. Bruins answered that with a Juzang baseline 9 footer to tie at (79-79). Timme grabbed another board and then put it back up for (81-79). Bruins called a time-out and had one left. With (00:43.1) left, Jacquez, Jr. was fouled on a muscle shot in the key and made both attempts to tie again, this time at (81-81). Bruins got the ball back and came down looking for either a foul, or a shot. The ball went to Juzang, and on his drive to the hoop, Gonzaga clogged the lane and drew the charging foul with only (00:01). Gonzaga then turned the ball back over to Juzang on a steal, but time had expired. Thus, to overtime they went.
(Overtime Period): This was the 3rd over-time game for the Bruins in the tournament. It started when Timme slipped a screen and scored, (83-81). He also drew the foul, but missed the free throw. Riley then hit a 17 foot jumper, (83-83). Next, Timme scored underneath again, (85-83). It was all Timme as he scored again on a mismatch down-low in the key. He made the shot for (87-83). With under 2 minutes left, Riley scored on another jump shot, (87-85), Zags. After a Gonzaga time-out, Nembhard hit a straightaway 3 pointer, for a (90-85) lead. After UCLA’s final time-out with (00:57.5) seconds in the period, it was “Iron Man” Jaquez, Jr.’s gigantic, contested 3-pointer that cut it to (90-88). After Gonzaga came way empty on their pursuant possession, Juzang then tied it up with his follow-up rebound/put-back from 4 feet away, to tie the game at (90-90), and with only (00:03) second left to play.
Thus, the Zags took the ball out quickly and turned up court. With no defender on Suggs, he spotted the basket and with (:00.03) seconds left, aimed long and true from just across the half-court line. With a “miracle” shot, he cashed it in “at the bank” as the old “playground” saying goes. The first Headline, “Suggs Wins Game With 45 Foot “Buzzer-Beater”-— Off-the-Glass. Game Over!!
(FINAL SCORE): Gonzaga 93 UCLA 90 (OT)
(Closing Comments): Oh, but only if ties were recognized in basketball, and in this “Evergreen” of a game, just wishing that a tie could declare equal and co-winners. So sad we all had to see one team lose. But, as one of the greatest axioms of sports is best described in the greatly watched and loved, ABC Network Saturday program called the “Wide World of Sports”…..Oh, but for the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Just keep in mind, there will always be next season and next year. We, as college basketball lovers and followers, say Congratulations to the Winner and an equal acknowledgement to the Defeated. We all can now comfortably and convincingly say. “What a game to remember!”
In Saturday’s first Semi-Final game, the Baylor Bears powered their way past the Houston Cougars, and would then have to wait for the conclusion of this game to know its rival for Monday’s title game. Now everything has all been set for the Title match-up.
(Next Up): The NCAA’s National Championship Game, on the CBS TV Network, Baylor vs. Gonzaga, Monday, April 5th at 6:30 pm (PDT). Radio will carry it on the Westwood One Network. Check the NCAA website for Live Streaming options.