INDIANAPOLIS -- Johnny Juzang had just sank a little stickback floater to tie the score for the 15th time over a span of 45 incredible basketball minutes, and so it appeared Gonzaga and UCLA were headed for a second overtime in Saturday's second national semifinal inside Lucas Oil Stadium, where fans mixed with cardboard cutouts were standing and cheering and trying to grasp the greatness they were witnessing.
But there were still 3.3 seconds left.
Any coach will tell you any competent ball-handler, in a situation like this situation, can get at least one dribble per second. So when Corey Kispert inbounded the ball to Jalen Suggs -- who caught it in his own lane, but while on the run, alone, and headed in the direction he needed to be headed -- the five-star freshman was always going to be able to get at least three dribbles. And three dribbles, as long as nobody diverted him from his path, were always going to result in Suggs launching from a manageable range.
In other words, Gonzaga still had time to end it.
Gonzaga-UCLA was one of the best games in tournament history. An instant epic. Eye on College Basketball recaps all of it below.
Suggs' first dribble came just inside his own 3-point line (with 2.8 seconds remaining). The second dribble came just on the other side of his own 3-point line (with 2.3 seconds remaining). And the third dribble came just short of midcourt (with 1.9 seconds remaining), at which point Jim Nantz, the iconic CBS announcer, seemed to be recognizing this classic game might be headed for a classic ending.
"Gonzaga has time to do something," Nantz said.
Then, after two get-me-closer steps, Suggs pulled from about 35 feet (with 1.0 second left). And what happened next is something that'll be replayed for decades each March because what happened next was instantly recognized as one of the greatest buzzer-beaters in the long history of the NCAA Tournament.
"Suggs for the win!" Nantz yelled. "Oh yes! Oh yes! Unbelievable!"
Oh yes, indeed.
Final score: Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90.
This was not supposed to be a close game. Gonzaga entered 30-0 with 29 double-digit wins, as the No. 1 overall seed in this 68-team event. UCLA, meantime, was just 21-10 even after a five-game winning streak, which is among the reasons the Bruins were the third-to-last at-large team in the field, a scrappy bunch that lost its top recruit last offseason, best player midseason, and started in the First Four.
The point spread was Gonzaga -14.5.
A blowout was likely.
But then the official tossed the ball in the air, the game started, and UCLA scored first and just kept scoring. The Bruins shot 57.7% from the field and only trailed 45-44 after 20 minutes. It was a real and competitive game. But Gonzaga had been in real and competitive games before, most recently in the West Coast Conference Tournament against BYU. The Zags trailed that one by double-digits at the half (53-41) but still won by double-digits (88-78). So conventional wisdom had them doing something similar here.
This game unfolded differently, though.
Gonzaga never pulled away, never led by more than seven points, and actually trailed 77-75 with fewer than three minutes left in regulation. In fact, the Zags' quest for their first national title would've likely ended if not for Drew Timme, the mustached All-American, sliding in to take a charge on Juzang with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation and with the game tied. Suggs' subsequent game-winner is the forever highlight, but Timme's ability to draw that charge in that moment was equally as big, if not bigger.
It was a season-saving play.
Then Suggs ended UCLA's season with that shot.
"We went out fighting," Juzang said. "There are no regrets. Everybody fought to the last play."
So now it'll be Gonzaga vs. Baylor on Monday night with one school guaranteed to win its first national title, a rare championship game between the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll, between the teams that were identified as the top two seeds on Selection Sunday.
Gonzaga is 31-0.
Baylor is 27-2.
The Zags opened as favorites. And if they win, they'll finish as the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976, at which point they'll go down as an all-time great team. The trophy ceremony would be something. Cutting nets is always cool. But the lasting memory from Gonzaga's run to its first national title, if Gonzaga closes this thing out and wins its first national title, will almost certainly be .
There were 3.3 seconds left when he got the ball. He could get three dribbles. So he took three dribbles, then two more steps, and let fly a jumper that is now the biggest shot in Gonzaga history. The ball hit the backboard, then the bottom of the net. What followed was a celebration on top of the scorer's table.
What comes next could be immortality.
"Stuff like this is something you dream of as a kid," Suggs said. "I just can't believe that happened."