Julian Strother’s late pointer lifts UCLA’s Gonzaga trio to the Elite 8

Paul GutierrezESPN staff writer4 minutes to read

Drew Thiem shines with 36 points in Gonzaga’s win over UCLA

Drew Timme had 36 points as Gonzaga beat UCLA to advance to the Elite Eight.

LAS VEGAS – With apologies to Cecil B. DeMille, Julian Strother was ready for his close-up. Even if it’s 30 feet away.

The Gonzaga junior guard, who grew up in Las Vegas, said he felt like he was starring in his own movie after hitting a deep three-pointer and converting a free throw in the final seven seconds to give the No. 3 seeded Bulldogs a touchdown. A 79-76 win over No. 2 UCLA Thursday night sending them to the West Region Final against No. 4 UConn.

“It’s all the story behind it,” Strother said. “Just be home. Down in the first half. Come back. Take a big lead. Give it another go. Come right back down and shoot like that? It really felt like a movie.”

Consider this: Before Strother converted his direct shot from a darn near the Nevada-California line, he was shooting just 4-of-14 from the field, 2-of-7 from behind the three-point arc. Gonzaga, who trailed in the first half, 46-33, took a 10-point lead, 72-62, with 2:30 to play, trailed, 76-75, with 12 seconds to play.

film? Who would have believed this scenario? Especially on the 17th anniversary of Adam Morrison’s infamous Sweet 16 home game in Oakland, when the Bruins scored the last 11 points to break Gonzaga hearts. And yes, Morrison was in Las Vegas on Thursday, calling the match on the radio.

Because in the huddle after UCLA called a timeout when taking the lead, Gonzaga coach Mark Few also drew a play that included “a simple passing motion, [to] Let’s see if we can put their defense on their heels a little bit,” Strother said, asking Strother if he could kick the ball if it reached him.

Few emptied some of the insults in the affirmative choice. message received. A shot was taken.

“It was a clean look,” he said. “I got the ball and it was in range so I kicked it.”

Gonzaga senior forward Drew Timmy laughed.

“I mean, I can’t even describe what he did,” said Timmy, who finished with 36 points and 13 rebounds.

“I’m not so speechless, and I’m so speechless after that. But I’m Julian Strother’s number one fan forever now.”

The job description was actually taken, however, by his father, Lee.

Strother, who starred at Southern Nevada’s Liberty High School, lost his mother, Lourdes, to breast cancer when he was nine, and has paid tribute to her tattoos on his left arm and chest. So, after UCLA’s Tiger Campbell three-point attempt went off harmlessly when the final buzzer sounded, Strother ran to a corner of the court and stared into the stands as he was jostled by his teammates.

“This is my city,” he shouted to the crowd in a post-game celebration. “this is my city.”

He was more submissive in the locker room.

“I definitely looked in the direction of my parents, my friends,” said Strother, who had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. “I knew where they were. It’s one of those things where you feel sad. You don’t know what’s going on. It’s hard to react to what just happened.”

“Literally, when you’re a kid, you dream about doing a shot like that. Especially in March Madness. And the cherry on top is at home in Vegas. Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now. It felt like a movie, you know?”

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