LAS VEGAS — Julian Strother hit a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left to answer UCLA’s Amari Bailey 3-pointer to give Gonzaga a 79-76 NCAA Tournament victory over UCLA.
The West Region’s No. 2 seed, the Bruins (31-6), stormed from an 8-point deficit with 1:05 of the final minute to take a 76-75 lead on Bailey’s 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds remaining.
Zags (31-5) floored the ball and Strother stepped on a 3-pointer to get the Gonzaga fans to their feet.
Gonzaga’s Maracay Smith stole the ball from UCLA’s Tiger Campbell, but Strother hit just one of two free throws on the other side to give the Bruins a chance.
Campbell’s 3-pointer at the buzzer hit the back of the rim and Zags flew off the bench into Saturday’s Elite Eight against UConn.
Strother’s shot from a drop pass is reminiscent of Villanova’s Chris Jenkins shot at the 2016 Nationals.
It was the second time Gonzaga defeated UCLA on a last-second shot in an NCAA tournament. Jaren Saggs finally beat the Bruins, hitting a running 3-pointer on the buzzer and sending the Zags to the 2021 National Championship Game.
The finishing wave started like a prize fight, with each team taking turns striking in a hard-swinging game. UCLA took the lead with 13 in the first half, but Gonzaga took the lead on 10 with 2:30 remaining. UCLA didn’t shoot for more than his 12 minutes after that, but he led 76-75 with 13 seconds left.
The Zags, led by Drew Timm, scored 20 points and scored 36 points in his record 10th NCAA Tournament game.
Gonzaga also stepped up defensive pressure after UCLA’s hot shot in the first half to take an eight-point lead, but Jaime Jáquez Jr. scored on a three-point play and layup to cut it to 74-71 with 45 seconds remaining. . Tim then missed two free throws and set up Bailey’s shot.
Thankfully for Zags, Strother hit the target with a long 3-pointer, sending him into his fifth Elite Eight under coach Mark Few.
Jaquez had 29 points and 11 rebounds.