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Despite being shorthanded, UCLA expects another classic clash against Gonzaga


The tears before the end of an epic landslide.

The 40-footer banked at the buzzer.

If you know it, you know it. And almost everyone does.

Drama is assured when UCLA squares off gonzaga in the NCAA tournament.

The teams have met three times on the biggest stage in college basketball, producing two of the event’s most iconic moments. Start with the Gonzaga Adam Morrison crying before a 2006 regional semifinal ended, Bruins fans memorized announcer Gus Johnson’s breathless narration of the final seconds.

“And they rob them… Farmar… inside… the rookies up… and they go to the front!”

Fifteen years later, Morrison was on Gonzaga’s IMG Radio call when Jalen Suggs leaned in improbably from inside half court to beat the Bruins in the Final Four.

“Yessssssss!” Morrison yelled, drowning out his broadcast partner. “Yesssss! Yesssssssssssssssssssssssss

Whats Next? CBS announcers Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner and Stan Van Gundy will no doubt expect another classic finale on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena as second seed UCLA (31-5) takes on third seed Gonzaga (30-5). in a West Region semifinal. .

There will be no fear but a lot of hate in Las Vegas. Much of the hostility will pertain to the Bruins given that they have lost to the Bulldogs in each of the past two years, including a 20-point loss on this very court in November 2021.

Gonzaga also prevailed in the only other NCAA tournament meeting between the teams, a 12-point victory in a 2015 regional semifinal, and has a 5-2 all-time record against UCLA.

Those who believe in the power of symmetry may favor the Bruins. Thursday is the 17-year anniversary of UCLA’s comeback from 17 points behind during that regional semifinal against Gonzaga in Oakland, and bettors have given the Bruins a thumbs up by making them two-point favorites.

But UCLA, which is understaffed, could become even more depleted. Having persevered through the loss of top defender Jaylen Clark, the Bruins completed their second-round win over Northwestern with rookie center Adem Bona sore after aggravating a shoulder injury and senior sharpshooter David Singleton sidelined with a sprain. in the ankle.

As Bona sat at her locker with her heavily bandaged shoulder afterwards, Singleton said she was “fine”. Status updates are expected on Tuesday when manager Mick Cronin meets with the media.

Clark is scheduled to accompany his teammates to Las Vegas after staying in Southern California for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. He is just beginning a long recovery from a lower leg injury suffered in the final game of the regular season.

UCLA’s Adem Bona winces after leaving the game against Northwestern as teammate Mac Etienne watches in the second half of the second round of the NCAA tournament in Sacramento on Saturday.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s going to be fun to have him around,” Singleton said last weekend in Sacramento. “I miss him and wish he was here, but things happen. I’m glad I can be a part of this in some way, some way.”

Clark is one of seven players on UCLA’s roster to return from the team that lost to the Bulldogs in a national semifinal two years ago. Fifth-year senior center Kenneth Nwuba played less than a minute in that game, but could move into a prominent role Thursday, earning Gonzaga’s defensive field assignment. Drew Timme if Bona can’t go because of her shoulder injury.

The mustache-stroking Timme led the Bulldogs to their eighth straight Sweet 16 with a 28-point effort in the second round against Texas Christian on Sunday, suggesting afterward that he was inspired by online jabs from Horned Frogs fans. .

“Put lighter fluid on the fire if you want,” Timme told reporters. “I thought TCU was a highly educated school and they didn’t sound so smart with their comments.”

Widely dismissed as national title contenders after a home loss to Loyola Marymount followed by a tie with Saint Mary’s for the West Coast Conference regular season title, the Bulldogs have worked their way to 11 straight wins to secure the longest active winning streak in the nation. .

UCLA has been just as hot, winning 14 of 15 games to reach the Sweet 16 for the third straight season with Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell leading the way.

“Mick has done a great job just instilling his personality and toughness on that show,” Gonzaga’s trainer Mark Few told reporters. “With a very defensive mindset and a lot of isolations, the ball will be in the hands of Jaquez and Tyger for a long time.”

UCLA hasn’t had much luck in Las Vegas since winning the Pac-12 tournament in 2014 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Bruins have lost their last game in all six conference tournaments at T-Mobile Arena, losing a game there against North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic in 2019 and were ran off the court by Gonzaga last season.

Bulldogs fans vastly outnumbered their Bruins counterparts inside the arena that night, giving them a loud last word.

There will be more chatter on Thursday, with each team vying for what could be another historic final.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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