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Gonzaga's hoops team is one win away from the coveted Final Four

Gonzaga's Julian Strawther made the late three-point shot that gave the Bulldogs a late lead over UCLA on Thursday night.
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Gonzaga's Julian Strawther made the three-point shot that gave the Bulldogs a late lead over UCLA on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs squeaked out a dramatic 79-76 win over UCLA in the NCAA Western Regionals on Thursday night.

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team moved to within one game of the NCAA tournament’s Final Four with an improbable 79-76 win over UCLA last night in Las Vegas.

Improbable because the Bulldogs trailed by 13 points at halftime.

“They had us on the ropes there at halftime and even coming out of halftime, the first couple of possessions," said Gonzaga Coach Mark Few. "But we challenged the guys at halftime to get back to playing our way and I thought we played much, much better defense in the second half and cut down on our turnovers. That’s what was really killing us in the first half.”

They were still down 12 four minutes into the second half when they started their comeback. They pulled even with nine-and-a-half minutes left and took their own 10 point lead with two-and-a-half minutes left. Then it was the Bruins’ turn for a run, grabbing a one point lead on a three-point shot by Amari Bailey with 13 seconds to go. After a timeout, Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther, a Las Vegas native, hit a long three-pointer with seven seconds left.

“Those are literally the moments that you dream of, to even make a shot like that in March Madness and then just to be back home in Vegas is like a cherry on top. But words can’t describe how proud I am of our team and our resilience," Strawther said during a post-game press conference.

The wild finish featured the Zags with a steal and a free throw and a final missed shot by UCLA's Tyger Campbell.

Strawther finished the game with 16 points. Drew Timme led the way with 36.

Gonzaga now moves on to an Elite Eight game Saturday against Connecticut, which steamrolled Arkansas, 88-65, on Thursday afternoon.

“U-Conn, I think they’re playing probably better than anyone in the tournament right now," Few said.

"I got to see them several times. They’ve just done a fabulous job of roster building. The pieces they have fit really, really well. They’ve got multiple bigs. They got big wings. They got guards that can shoot threes and run some good stuff. That’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us," he said.

That challenge is expected to start around 5:50 pm Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The winner will grab a berth in the Final Four next Saturday in Houston.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.