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Gonzaga advances to Elite Eight with 74-62 victory over UCLA

The Zags and Bruins shot the ball like fourth graders, probably because they were playing in a football stadium. But the offensive juggernaut of Gonzaga had enough to drop 74 points and advance past the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1999.

Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer (33) watches as seniors Kevin Pangos (4) and Gary Bell Jr. (5) hug after defeating the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer (33) watches as seniors Kevin Pangos (4) and Gary Bell Jr. (5) hug after defeating the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Your past doesn't matter, it's not relevant to your team this year. Just because a coach hadn't made the elite eight before doesn't mean he never will. That didn't seem to matter to the people who always counted Gonzaga out because of what Gonzaga had or rather, had not done.

All that history that always should have been ignored now absolutely must be ignored.

Mark Few is going to the Elite Eight for the first time and Gonzaga is back for the second, it's first since capturing the heart of the nation with its 1999 Cinderella run.

Tonight's game against the 11 seed UCLA Bruins, the closest thing to a Cinderella in this year's tournament, erased nine years of pain for Gonzaga fans. It was UCLA that knocked the Adam Morrison led Zags out of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, in the Sweet 16 no less, with a ferocious late-game comeback.

They tried to comeback in this one with a late game barrage of threes, but inept shooting for the first 38 minutes doomed the Bruins. At the final buzzer the original Cinderella pushed the clock hands to midnight on this year's edition.

Bryce Alford got it done against SMU, then Tony Parker against UAB. Tonight it looked like Norman Powell (16 points) would be the go-to-guy for UCLA. He scored six of the Bruins' first eight points by driving the right side of the lane, straight at the less nimble Przemek Karnowski, for easy looks at the basket.

While UCLA looked to attack the Zags' bigs the Zags used their balanced, efficient offense to build a lead.

Then, the game became garbage. Between the under-16 and under-12 media timeouts both teams were completely ineffective from the field. Gonzaga made just one of six field goal attempts while UCLA managed just one better, going two for six. Somehow it got worse.

These two teams missed a combined 19 straight field goals over six-and-a-half minutes.

About the only thing going right for the Zags in the first was the play of USC transfer Byron Wesley (14 points) who came into tonight averaging 15.1 points per game on 50% shooting in eight career games against the Bruins. Familiarity.

UCLA ran out of the halftime break on a 6-0 run which caused Gonzaga to call timeout less than two minutes in. The Zags responded with a 12-0 run of their own. Steve Alford called a timeout when the Zags' run was just 8-0, but it was clear that Gonzaga would not be stopped in this one.

But then Domantas Sabonis came off the bench to give Karnowski a breather and promptly banged knees with fellow reserve Eric McClellan. Gonzaga doesn't have much depth on the front line behind Sabonis so seeing him limping around on the floor was quite worrisome.

He took a spot on the bench for a quick break only to come back in shortly thereafter and put on a clinic with Karnowski. Sabonis' first offensive possession after coming back into the game ended with a slam.

Then, moments later, Karnowski hit the freshman with another no-look pass.

Gonzaga was in complete control, despite just shooting 40.3% from the field. For the nation's number one ranked field goal shooting team, to hold a double-digit lead for the final 14:40 of a Sweet 16 game is rather absurd when the shots just aren't falling. It's also a testament to just how good the Zags are in the paint.

Kyle Dranginis, who has been the Zags' glue guy extraordinaire this season, hit a three with 4:22 to play that gave Gonzaga a 17 point lead. What makes that three notable, aside from marking the largest lead of the game, is that it was the first from either team in over 20 minutes of play.

Gonzaga finished just 3-19 from the field while UCLA went 3-13.

All of those threes for UCLA came with less than three minutes to play. Bryce Alford hit the Bruins' first with 2:20 to go which cut their defecit to 16 points. Isaac Hamilton connected from deep on the next possession, making it a 13 point game, then Alford made another on the Bruins third straight possession.

It was too little too late, though Zags fans were certainly made uncomfortable with flashbacks to that day from March 2006 they'd rather forget.

In the end Gonzaga advances with a 74-62 victory. The 35-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs will face the winner of the other Sweet 16 game from the South Region, one seed Duke vs. five seed Utah, on Sunday.