March Madness always delivers. The last 24 seconds of the Gonzaga game felt like an eternity.
Amari Bailey hits a 3 with 12.1 seconds left to put the Bruins up one while UCLA trailed by nine just 90 seconds earlier. Drew Timme missed back to back free throws on the previous offensive possession to give UCLA that chance in the first place.
It was déjà vu for a Gonzaga program that a blew a similar lead 17 years earlier. Adam Morrison famously pictured crying at mid-court came back in the minds of Gonzaga fans. Julian Strawther, the hometown Las Vegas kid quickly pushed their tears back, turning them into screams of joy.
With just 12.1 seconds left the junior wing buried a 32-footer at the logo. Gonzaga forced a Tyger Campbell to turn the ball over in the waining seconds, and Gonzaga came a way with the victory.
JULIAN STRAWTHER FOR THE WIN— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 24, 2023
GONZAGA IS GOING TO THE ELITE 8 pic.twitter.com/UYWfOMZKeJ
Luckily, @TimmeCrying won’t be needed after all.
Is @timmecrying available? Preparing just in case…— morrisoncrying (@morrisoncrying) March 24, 2023
Timme was pretty damn excited about the shot.
“That was one shining moment,” he said following the win. “Julian just took on all of GU and buttered that shot. I’m not speechless too much and I’m pretty speechless after that. But I am the number one Julian Strawther fan forever now.”
Timme has encouraged Strawther to take more command of the offense and hunt more of his shots. Mark Few drew that play up for Strawther but it was Strawther’s idea to pull up for a jumper if the defense gave him the space.
“That’s Jay Wright’s play that he used in the Villanova-Carolina (finals),” Few said. “That’s what we call it. He makes it all the time. When he asked me, it was stronger words than what he used. I just said, ‘yeah, make it.’”
The shot sure looked familiar to the one that Jalen Suggs banked in to burry the Bruins in 2021.
ASKDJ;FLKAJWEOFIJA;WDKFJA;KLSDH— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) April 4, 2021
JALEN SUGGS FOR THE WIN
Timme carried Gonzaga to this point. The Zags all-time leading scorer had 36 points on 16 of 24 shooting while he collected 13 rebounds and dished out four assists. On the same day where a point guard broke the tournaments single game assist record, Timme gave him a run for performance of the day.
While we focus on the offense, it was Gonzaga’s defense that got them the victory. Gonzaga trailed 46-33 at the half. UCLA was getting whatever they wanted in the pick and roll. Few challenged his team to defend.
“Our pick and roll defense was terrible in the first half — we were making the same mistakes we were doing in November,” he said. “That’s why they had so many easy lay ups at the rim. I really challenged our guys to defend and take care of the ball to limit the easy baskets for them.”
UCLA went over 12 minutes without a field goal in the second half while Malachi Smith played a key role in the second half.
Smith was the SoCon player of the year at Chattanooga last year but has taken more of a reserve roll coming off Gonzaga’s bench. Thursday night was his time to shine.
“For Malachi to be a player of the year in his conference and to come off the bench here is a true testament to his character,” Timme said. “He is more capable than people give him credit for, he can score every night. He knows when to step and how to feel the game. His selfishness is so huge for his team.”
Now Gonzaga makes it’s third elite eight appearance in three seasons. They will go against a red hot UConn team that has looked like the best in the tournament. They have won all of their games by 15-plus points.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Timme said. “They have two great bigs looking at the matchup. They’re both forces. They’re both equally good. It’s going to be a battle.”
The Zags had their one shining moment, but it won’t be the last one of this tournament. The Zags seem like they are a team of destiny. Timme has been one of the best players in college basketball the last four years. Winning a national championship would help solidify him as one of the best ever.