Short-handed UCLA expects another classic showdown against Gonzaga

Tears before the end of the epic meltdown.

The 40 feet are set at the bell.

If you know, then you know. And most people do.

Drama is guaranteed when you face UCLA Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament.

The two teams have met three times in college basketball’s biggest stage, leading to two of the event’s most iconic moments. Start with Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison Crying before the 2006 regional semifinal was over, Bruins fans committed the stinging narration of the final seconds to memory by announcer Gus Johnson.

“And the robbery…farmar…inside…the first student…and they go on top!”

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

“Yes!” Morrison yelled, dousing his partner in the broadcast. “Yes! Ysssss! “

What then? CBS announcers Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner and Stan Van Gundy will undoubtedly be hoping to end another classic Thursday night at the T-Mobile Arena when second-seed UCLA (31-5) faces third-seed Gonzaga (30-5) in the Western Regional Semifinals. .

There would be no fear but plenty of disgust in Las Vegas. Much of the animosity will belong to the Bruins given they have lost to the Bulldogs each of the past two years, including by 20 points on the same court in November 2021.

Gonzaga also won the only other NCAA meeting between the two teams, with a 12-point victory in the 2015 Regional Semifinals, and holds an all-time 5-2 record against UCLA.

Those who believe in the power of symmetry might prefer the Bruins. Thursday marks the 17th anniversary of UCLA coming back from a 17-point deficit during the regional semifinal against the Gonzaga in Oakland, and the odds-makers gave the Bruins a nod by making them a two-point favorite.

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But the short-term UCLA may be more depleting. After persevering with the loss of defenseman Jelen Clark, the Bruins completed a second-round win over Northwestern with freshman starter Adam Bona in pain after aggravating a shoulder injury and punter David Singleton sidelined with an ankle injury.

As Bona sat in his locker with his shoulder tightly draped afterwards, Singleton said he was “fine.” A status update is expected Tuesday when head coach Mick Cronin meets with the media.

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

UCLA’s Adam Bona poses in pain after being knocked out of the game against Northwestern as teammate Mac Etienne looks on in the second half of the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Sacramento on Saturday.

(Wally Scalig/Los Angeles Times)

“It would 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 he can be a part of this one way or another.”

Clark is among seven players on UCLA’s roster returning from a team that lost to the Bulldogs in a national semifinal two years earlier. Fifth-year senior quarterback Kenneth Noba played less than a minute in that game, but he could move into a prominent role on Thursday, as he was given a defensive assignment at Gonzaga. Drew Tim If Bona is unable to go due to his shoulder injury.

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Mustache-stroking Timme carried the Bulldogs to their eighth straight Sweet 16 with 28 points in the second round against Texas Christian on Sunday, suggesting then that he was inspired by online punches from Horned Frogs fans.

“Throw lighter fluid on the fire if you want to,” Tim told reporters. “I thought TCU was a highly educated school and they didn’t sound smart in their comments.”

Widely dismissed as a national title contender after a loss at home to Loyola Marymount, this was followed by a tie with St. Mary’s for the West Coast Conference regular season title, and the Bulldogs battled their way to 11 straight victories to secure the longest active winning streak in the nation. .

UCLA was equally hot, winning 14 of their 15 games to reach the Sweet 16 for the third straight season with Jaime Jaquez Jr. And Tyger Campbell is on top.

“Mick has done an amazing job of just infusing his personality and toughness into this program,” Gonzaga coach Mark View told reporters. “Very defensive minded and a lot of isolation, the ball will be in the hands of Jackie’s and Tiger a lot.”

UCLA hasn’t had much luck in Las Vegas since winning the Pac-12 Championship in 2014 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Bruins lost their final 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 being knocked out by Gonzaga last season.

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

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There will be more chatter on Thursday, as each team battles for another historic final word.

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