UCLA Vs. Gonzaga Has History, Giving NCAA Tournament Its Best Sweet 16 Matchup


There are two memories that stand out when thinking about UCLA and Gonzaga.

For college basketball fans who have been around a little longer, it’s the image of Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison crying after the Bruins stole away a Sweet 16 victory in 2006.

Gonzaga was holding onto a 71-68 lead with 40 seconds left and the ball. UCLA’s Ryan Hollins was fouled pursuing a defensive rebound and proceeded to make two free throws to bring the Bruins within 71-70 with 19 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Jordan Farmar stole the ball from Gonzaga’s JP Batista in the backcourt, passed the ball to Luc Mbah a Moute for a layup to take a 72-71 lead with eight seconds left before making the game-winning steal and completing UCLA’s 73-71 comeback victory over the Zags.

“Unbelievable,” CBS’ broadcaster Gus Johnson yelled, as the camera panned to a crying Morrison. “After being down by 17 (points), heartbreak city!”

The UCLA fans that aren’t as “experienced” might not remember that 2006 game so well, but they certainly remember the Final Four game in 2021, ingrained with the images of Jalen Suggs standing on top of a courtside media table yelling in triumph after banking in a near-halfcourt shot as the buzzer sounded to win the game 93-90 in overtime.

“There are onions, and then there are major onions – with a kiss!” CBS color analyst Bill Raftery yelled.

Even Gonzaga coach Mark Few turned to UCLA coach Mick Cronin and threw his hands up in disbelief.

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs (1) celebrates making the game winning basket against UCLA during overtime in a men’s Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Gonzaga won 93-90. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) The UCLA versus Gonzaga (30-5) matchup has a fun, dramatic history which makes Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup between the second-seeded Bruins and third-seeded Bulldogs the NCAA tournament’s best game of the round when they face off at 6:40 p.m. at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

This week’s game will tip off exactly 17 years to the day since the two met in 2006. The two teams are also seeded identically.

It will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two programs, the fourth time in the NCAA tournament, and the third Sweet 16 matchup. Gonzaga is 5-2 against UCLA in those games, including 2-1 in postseason play.

The last time UCLA and Gonzaga met was Nov. 23, 2021, in Las Vegas in the T-Mobile Arena for an early-season showdown, but the Bulldogs dominated in an 83-63 win thanks to the slashing work of Andrew Nembhard, who scored a game-high 24 points.

“Colossal softness,” was the way UCLA coach Mick Cronin described his team that Tuesday night.

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme scored 28 points on 12 of 21 shooting to lead the Bulldogs to an 84-81 second-round NCAA tournament victory over TCU Sunday night.

UCLA and Gonzaga are two of just four teams to have advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

PREVIOUS GAMES 11/23/21: Gonzaga 83, UCLA 63

4/3/2021: Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90 (Final Four)

12/12/2015: UCLA 71, Gonzaga 66

3/27/2015: Gonzaga 74, UCLA 62 (Sweet 16)

12/13/2014: Gonzaga 87, UCLA 74

3/23/2006: UCLA 73, Gonzaga 71 (Sweet 16)

12/11/1999: Gonzaga 59, UCLA 34

Tarek Fattal | Sportswriter Tarek was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, a community he now serves as a sportswriter for the LA Daily News covering high school sports since 2015. Tarek also covers the UCLA men’s basketball team for the Southern California News Group and can be seen on CBS Los Angeles on weekends serving as co-host/sports analyst with TV legend Jim Hill.

Vittorio Ferla

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