Gonzaga Stuns UCLA With Three-Pointer Buzzer Beater For Final Four Win

At halftime Saturday night, UCLA coach Mick Cronin challenged his team to keep it close for 10 more minutes and that they should then be able to crank up the pressure on unbeaten Gonzaga.

The flawless combination created a masterpiece of a college basketball game. It just didn’t lead to a win for the upstart Bruins.

After UCLA star Johnny Juzang’s basket with 3.3 seconds to go in overtime tied things up at 90, Jalen Suggs answered with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to send the unbeaten Bulldogs into their second national championship game and the Bruins home to think about how close they came to adding another memorable chapter to the school’s rich history.

“When Johnny got the putback, I didn’t have a timeout left so I was running at my guys to get their attention to trap the ball and they got there late,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said. “It’s not their fault because we trained them to get back because Gonzaga is so fast. If you look at the film I was trying to get them to come up so he (Suggs) couldn’t get into that shot. Still, it was a bank shot from half court.”

UCLA (22-10) played this one a bit different than they had through their incredible tourney run that started in the First Four. The Bruins often traded baskets with Gonzaga (31-0), one of the nation’s most prolific scoring teams, and didn’t allow the Zags to go on one of their trademark runs.

The Bruins also made sure to keep things slow, deliberate and tense.

It was almost enough.

Juzang finished with 29 points to lead the Bruins, trying to become the first No. 11 seed to reach the championship game. Afterward, stunned UCLA players gathered around as the officials looked at a replay review to make sure the shot was off in time. It was.

“We went out fighting,” Juzang said. “We went out, there’s no better way, there’s no regrets. Everybody fought to the last play and the last shot is the last shot.”

UCLA can take solace in doing something no other team did this season by forcing the high-scoring Zags into overtime. It just couldn’t close out Gonzaga to continue an incredible postseason run that included overtime wins over Michigan State and Alabama, runaways against BYU and Abilene Christian and holding off off top-seeded Michigan to join VCU as the only teams to advance from the First Four to the Final Four.

The Bruins were fighting for school pride, too.

Only seven Division I teams and four schools have been undefeated national champs. Only UCLA has done it more than once, celebrating perfect seasons in 1963-64, 1966-67, 1971-72 and 1972-73. The last team to accomplish the feat was the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.

Since then, two undefeated teams had reached a Final Four in Indianapolis and lost — UNLV to Duke in 1991, Kentucky to Wisconsin in 2015. Gonzaga is the third and the Zags, too, were in a dogfight.

“Everybody is going to ask what I just told my team, so I’ll just tell you: I told them they have to let the last shot go,” Cronin said. “As much as they want to be beaten down and gutted and miserable, they have to let it go because they’re winners. As a coach all you can ask of your players is to give everything they’ve got.”

The Bruins certainly did their part.

Each time it looked like Gonzaga might get away, they fought right back — methodically erasing a 64-57 deficit midway through the second half. And it looked like they might win in regulation until Juzang was called for a charge with less than 1 second to go.

In overtime, Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 87-83 lead but when they couldn’t put it away, the Bruins capitalized. Cody Riley hit a 15-footer. The Zags answered with a 3-pointer from Andrew Nembhard to make it 90-85 with 1:15 to go and yet the Bruins knotted things at 90 — only to see their effort fall short when Suggs’ magical shot set up the Monday night matchup college basketball fans have waited all season to watch — Gonzaga vs. Baylor.

“Kudos to them, they’re a very good team,” Juzang said. “But we’re UCLA and the guys on this team, there’s no one I’d rather go to battle with. And we expect to win. We are who we are and every game we went out and left it out there and let the best man win.”

The College Recruit and the Downfall of a Hall of Fame Coach

Should a high school star be prevented from playing college basketball because his father was accused of taking a bribe?

collegeBrian Bowen Jr. was one of the top high-school basketball players in the senior class of 2017. He grew up in Saginaw, Mich., an economically depressed Rust Belt city with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. It is also a basketball hotbed, where players take pride in their scrappy, physical style of play. Draymond Green, an intense, sharp-elbowed All-Star with the N.B.A. champion Golden State Warriors, is among the pros who have come from Saginaw.

Bowen, however, was not hardened by either his city or its tough-edged basketball tradition. There is a sweetness about him, a shy smile, an engaging manner. He was given the nickname “Tugs” as an infant because he pulled on his mother’s hair with his tiny fingers, and that is what his family, friends, teammates and coaches have called him ever since. His mother chauffeured him around, fed him and made his schedule. Even after he reached high school, she could sometimes be seen kneeling or sitting at the bottom of the bleachers as she laced up his sneakers before a game, like a figure-skating mom tightening the laces of her child’s skates. In his free time, he liked to build elaborate Lego structures. The worst that was said about him, an only child, was that he could seem a little sheltered.

His father, Brian Bowen Sr., a former high-school player, groomed him for basketball almost from birth. When Tugs was just 9 months old and holding onto furniture for balance as he began to walk, his father made sure he alternated between his right and left hands — while rolling a ball with the opposite hand — so he would be able to dribble and shoot a basketball with both. A few years later, the family moved into a house with a basketball court in the backyard. The court was where Tugs would begin to learn the game, and as he got older, it attracted serious players in Saginaw. They came to work, not play. Brian Bowen Sr., a former police officer who had retired on medical disability, stood watch on the sideline, offering instruction and keeping the games as clean as he could.

The surface was originally concrete, but he covered it with VersaCourt, a softer synthetic material that came in sections fitted together like puzzle pieces. “He was looking ahead even back then,” his son told me last fall, the first time we talked. “If it would have stayed cement, I would have wrecked my knees, and I wouldn’t have been able to amount to anything.”

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/18/magazine/college-basketball-recruiting-bribery-case-rick-pitino.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=The%20New%20York%20Times%20Magazine

The 15 Best Sneakers Worn in the NCAA Hoops Preseason

Today, the NCAA men’s basketball season officially got underway around the country. Like the pros, the preseason gives players a chance to dip into their own stash of sneakers and make a statement. The saying, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’ could not be more poignant than for college players because for many, it’s their first time under the watchful eyes of fans and sneakerheads. With that said, the preseason had a ton of players looking fresh on the court with their sneaker choices. We narrowed it down to the 15 Best Sneakers Worn in the NCAA Preseason so you don’t have to see the weak sh*t. CONTINUE READING..