Jalen Suggs couldn’t have said it any better.
After producing one of the most legendary moments in NCAA tournament history with his buzzer-beater from close to half-court that gave Gonzaga a 93-90 overtime win vs. UCLA in a national semifinal on Saturday, Suggs summed it up the way the rest of the country was.
“I just can’t believe that happened,” Suggs said.
He sure wasn’t alone.
The shot from Suggs, which sent Gonzaga into Monday night’s national championship game with Baylor, set Twitter on fire in both amazement about the game and appreciation for the effort of both teams.
It also sent historians into reflection in pondering whether it was the greatest college basketball game ever played.
Games such as the 1983 NCAA championship game when N.C. State beat Houston on a dunk at the buzzer, the 1992 regional final between Duke and Kentucky that ended on Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper before the buzzer, and the 2016 national championship game in which Villanova beat North Carolina on a long 3-pointer at the buzzer are three examples of historic contests that will forever be remembered.
But years from now, what took place Saturday between Gonzaga and UCLA could be considered the best of all, with highlights of Suggs’ shot being shown repeatedly on March Madness promos and retrospectives.
Here are five reasons why Gonzaga-UCLA played the greatest college basketball game of all time.
1. Both teams played incredibly well.
The box score itself should be sent to the Hall of Fame. Gonzaga shot 58.7% from the field and had 26 assists to just 10 turnovers, an offensive output that was expected, since the Bulldogs entered with the nation’s best offense. Nobody saw UCLA going toe-to-toe offensively with Gonzaga, but that’s remarkably what happened. The Bruins entered the game shooting just over 44% from the field in the tournament and averaging more than 70 points a game, but they were just as efficient offensively as Gonzaga. UCLA shot 57.6% from the field overall, 47.1% from 3-point range and committed just 10 turnovers. Overall, nine players in the game scored in double-figures: five for Gonzaga and four for UCLA.
2. The epic ending.
What’s a classic game without an ending that will be remembered forever? Just like Laettner’s shot, the dunk by N.C. State’s Lorenzo Charles in the 1983 NCAA championship and the game-winner from Villanova’s Kris Jenkins in the 2016 title game, Suggs produced a moment that will be a symbol of March Madness.
Sure, it was a lengthy shot, but don’t call it a complete miracle and total stroke of luck, either. Suggs said afterward that he shoots half-courters in practice all the time and was obviously comfortable with that range.
3. No team held a lead more than seven points.
The game was CLOSE throughout. UCLA’s biggest lead was at six points in the first half, while Gonzaga took a seven-point lead with 11:54 remaining. However, UCLA answered with a 6-0 run and it was back-and-forth from there. There were 19 lead changes and 15 ties in the game.
4. History was made.
Can you believe this was the first time that a semifinal game ended on a buzzer-beating shot that was a 3-pointer? Yep, that is the case, although it should be pointed out that the 3-point line didn’t come into existence in college basketball until 1986. Still, it was a rare semifinal finish. The only other semifinal game to end on a game-winning shot made with no time left came in 1977 when Marquette’s Jerome Whitehead hit a layup just as time expired to beat Charlotte, 51-49.
5. It came at a time when a diversion was needed.
With the pandemic still plaguing the world, the game provided millions with an amazing two hours of entertainment and a respite from other issues. It’s no wonder so many sports icons, entertainment stars and people around the world tweeted their appreciation to both teams for producing such a gem.
Was this the greatest college basketball game ever played? Let us know what you think in the comments below.