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Thursday, December 9, 2021

‘I Knew When He Shot It, It Was Going In’

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Jalen Suggs hadn’t been making his half-court shots during shoot around lately, but he sure made the biggest one of his young life when it counted the most.

The Gonzaga freshman drained a game-winning 3-pointer off the window as time expired to keep the Bulldogs’ undefeated season alive with a 93-90 victory over UCLA in overtime of the national semifinals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We made a lucky one at the end but I’m just telling you he makes those ones all the time in practice when we practice late-game situations,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said on CBS
with a straight face.

“He’s just got this magical aura about him. I knew when he shot it, it was going in, I’m telling you. I knew it was going in,”

Said Suggs: “I haven’t been making my half-courters, but I got it with confidence, put it up and, man, it’s crazy, I can’t come to words right now.”

Gonzaga (31-0) will attempt to become the first undefeated national championship team since Bob Knight’s Indiana club in 1976 when it faces Baylor (27-2) in the NCAA championship game on Monday night. The Bears routed Houston, 78-59, in the first game.

Gonzaga has never won an NCAA championship — they lost in the 2017 final to North Carolina — and would be the first non-power 6 team since UNLV in 1990 to win the title. Baylor has also never won the title.

The Bulldogs still haven’t lost a game since Feb. 22, 2020 — a stretch of 35 straight games — but boy were they pushed to the edge by UCLA. The Bruins had come out of the “First Four” to become only the second team since VCU in 2011 to reach the Final Four.

Led by Johnny Juzang’s 29 points and Jaime Jaquez’s 19, the Bruins pushed Gonzaga to the limit before Suggs, a star quarterback in high school, made a shot that will go down in history like Christian Laettner’s shot at Duke that stunned Kentucky in 1992.

“Unbelievable college basketball game,” Few said. “We had to dig as deep as we ever had to in quite a while. Not just this year, but quite a while. Man, is UCLA tough. Just an incredible effort on both ends. And just a great college basketball game.”

Aside from the game-winner, the two biggest plays of the game were on the defensive end. Suggs had a block on Cody Riley at the rim and then fed a fullcourt bounce pass to Drew Timme for a two-handed dunk that made it 79-77 in regulation.

At the end of regulation, Timme, who was in foul trouble, also took a charge from Juzang with the game tied at 81. Had Juzang scored there, UCLA might have won.

“Amazing, we’ve worked hard through this season,” Suggs said.

“This was great, extremely special. Putting dreams into reality and now we get ready for Baylor.”

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