Julian Strawther Gonzaga Mar 23, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Julian Strawther (0) makes a game-winning three point basket against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

When it was realized that Gonzaga and UCLA would be Sweet 16 opponents, it was only natural to wonder if the two teams could match the classics that they’d had in previous NCAA Tournaments. While those games were tough to live up to, the Bulldogs and Bruins were up to the task.

After controlling the game through the first half, UCLA went ice-cold offensively in the second half. Gonzaga not only got back into the game but when Malachi Smith made a three with 2:30 left, the Bulldogs led by 10 points. Then the Bruins battled back, taking advantage of some turnovers and fouls.

And after Drew Timme missed two free throws, UCLA’s Amari Bailey drained a three-pointer with 12.2 seconds remaining to put the Bruins back up, 76-75.

Gonzaga had an answer.

With the Bulldogs trailing by only one, the Bruins seemed to think that Gonzaga would work the ball into the low post, likely giving Timme — who had 36 points — a chance to win it. But that’s not what the Bulldogs did.

Julian Strawther inbounded the ball to Hunter Sallis, then ran a few feet behind as Sallis dribbled up the court. When it seemed like Sallis might drive into the lane, he instead passed the ball behind him, to Strawther. Strawther was not far beyond halfcourt, standing on the logo, but had a clean shot. He took advantage, burying the long three to put Gonzaga ahead.

After a turnover, Strawther split two free throws. That gave UCLA a chance to tie the game.

While Tyger Campbell gave it a tremendous attempt, his shot was ultimately off, giving Gonzaga a thrilling 79-76 victory.

Strawther’s gutsy game-winning shot was the major talking point when the classic game finally ended.

With the win, Gonzaga will take on No. 4 UConn in the West Regional Final on Saturday. The Huskies advanced to the Elite Eight in far less exciting fashion, dominating Arkansas 88-65.

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