INDIANAPOLIS — For 2 1/2 hours, they kept elevating each other, to levels of basketball neither Gonzaga nor UCLA had ever been forced to reach. Though they had arrived at this Final Four moment from very different paths, it was becoming increasingly clear with each possession that their destiny was to pull the best out of each other until one of them could land the final blow.
Such a spectacle would not have been possible without the sheer greatness of Gonzaga, rising to its biggest challenge in a quest for perfection. Likewise, it wouldn’t have been possible without UCLA’s refusal to relent and 45 minutes of pure shot-making that would have seemed beyond its capability until it happened Saturday night in the men's national semifinals.
We will remember Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90 for spectacular freshman Jalen Suggs adding to the NCAA Tournament’s annals of buzzer-beaters, with a heave from just beyond halfcourt that banked in so sweetly it almost seemed like he meant to do it. We’ll remember UCLA, a No. 11 seed that lived in the knife’s edge of elimination for three weeks, evolving in real time to the point where it could go blow-for-blow with one of the most dominant teams in the history of the sport.
And perhaps most of all, we’ll remember that this tournament often gives us the most when we expect the least, even in a mostly empty football stadium with thousands of cardboard cutouts planted in seats.
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