ESPN News Services3 minutes of reading
Las Vegas — Julian Strather hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer UCLA’s Amari Bailey’s 3-pointer to lift No. 3 seed Gonzaga to a 79-76 NCAA Tournament victory over UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.
The Bruins (31-6), the No. 2 seed in the West, rallied from an eight-point deficit with 1:05 left in the final to take a 76-75 lead on Bailey’s 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds left.
The Zags (31-5) brought the ball down the floor and Strather banked in a 3-pointer, sending the Gonzaga fans to their feet.
Gonzaga’s Malachi Smith stole the ball from UCLA’s Tiger Campbell, but Strather hit just 1-of-2 free throws at the other end, giving the Bruins a chance.
Campbell’s 3-pointer hit the back of the rim at the buzzer to send the Zags off the bench to the Elite Eight against UConn on Saturday.
Strather’s shot, on a drop pass, was reminiscent of Villanova’s Kris Jenkins’ 2016 national championship dunk.
It was the second time Gonzaga had beaten UCLA on a last-second shot in the NCAA Tournament. Jalen Suggs finally crushed the Bruins, hitting a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Jags to the 2021 national championship game.
A finish’s cheers began like a prizefight, with each team taking the plunge in a game of wild swings. UCLA led by 13 at the half, but Gonzaga led by 10 with 2:30 to play. UCLA then didn’t make a shot for more than 12 minutes, but took a 76-75 lead with 13 seconds left.
Gonzaga’s Drew Dimme had 36 points and 13 rebounds. He is the third player since 1985 to reach the Sweet 16 or later with 35 points and 10 rebounds, and the first since Loyola Marymount’s Bo Kimble in the 1990 Elite Eight, according to ESPN Stats and Information Research.
The Jags turned up the defensive pressure after UCLA’s hot-shooting first half and led by eight, but Jaime Jacques Jr.’s three-point play cut it to 74-71 with 45 seconds left. Diem missed two free throws, setting up Bailey’s shot.
Fortunately for Gonzaga, Strather flashed his long 3-pointer to send them to the Elite Eight for the fifth time under coach Mark Few.
Jaquez finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.