Believe it or not, but Gonzaga’s competitive history with UCLA is much richer – and goes far beyond – a certain men’s basketball encounter between the schools in the Sweet 16 of the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
It’s inherently true that no battle between the Bulldogs and Bruins will produce a moment, or an image, more iconic than that basketball game. Adam Morrison’s tears have been burned into the memory of every Gonzaga diehard who watched the Bulldogs bow out of the tournament with a gut-wrenching 73-71 loss to UCLA that left their star player crumpled on the floor in Oakland, California.
But the Bulldogs and Bruins have had plenty of meetings in an athletic arena – many with high stakes.
As GU’s baseball team prepares for a Friday matchup with UCLA in the Minneapolis Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament, we flip back and browse through some other notable encounters between the Zags and Bruins.
1. Gonzaga men’s basketball vs. UCLA, 2006: UCLA’s late offensive flurry, coupled with Morrison’s famous meltdown, made this one of the most memorable postseason games in GU history – granted, for all the wrong reasons. The story is well-documented at this point: Gonzaga raced out to a 17-point advantage in the first half, but UCLA charges late, scoring the final 11 points of the game, including the go-ahead basket from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, to oust the Bulldogs from the tournament.
2. Gonzaga women’s basketball vs. UCLA, 2011: On to a happier hardwood moment against the Bruins. No. 8 UCLA had the higher seed, but No. 20 Gonzaga had the home-court advantage and the game’s best player when the schools met in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Truthfully, the Bulldogs probably didn’t need home court – just Courtney Vandersloot. The All-American posted some monster numbers, scoring 29 points and dishing out 17 assists while becoming the first collegiate basketball player to post 2,000 points and 1,000 assists in a career. The Zags would win it 89-75 at Spokane Arena.
3. Gonzaga volleyball vs. UCLA, 1990: The Bulldogs were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1990 and didn’t exactly get an ideal draw, earning an opening-round match with a top-ranked UCLA team that had lost just once all year. The Bruins breezed through the first two sets, winning 15-6 and 15-7, but Gonzaga battled in the third, taking UCLA to 13-10 before finally conceding the set 15-12. The Bruins went on to win the national title.
4. Gonzaga men’s basketball vs. UCLA, 2015: Mark Few’s 2015 Bulldogs demonstrated their balance in a 74-62 win over Steve Alford’s Bruins during the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Przemek Karnowski left his mark on the game, scoring 18 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking two shots. Three other GU players – Byron Wesley, Kevin Pangos and Domantas Sabonis – scored in double digits, while Kyle Wiltjer wasn’t far off with eight points.
5. Gonzaga men’s basketball vs. UCLA, 1999: Backup guard Ryan Floyd led the No. 24 Zags to a midseason surprise over the No. 11 Bruins at Pauley Pavilion, scoring a career-high 17 points, with five 3-pointers, to steal a 59-43 win on the UCLA campus. The bigger story was Gonzaga’s smothering effort on the defensive end. The Bruins had never scored fewer than 44 points on their home floor. The loss also tied UCLA’s worst in a home nonconference game.
6. Gonzaga baseball vs. UCLA, 2017: Friday’s game signals the 10th meeting between the Zags and the Bruins on the diamond, and the first postseason matchup. They’ve had a few memorable duels during the regular season, though, including an extra-innings affair in Los Angeles last season. The Zags’ offense had been suffocated through the first eight innings, but it finally broke through with a run in the ninth to knot the game at 1. GU’s Troy Johnston picked a good time for his first career single, scoring Jake Roberts from second for the decisive run.
7. Gonzaga baseball vs. UCLA, 2017: Two days later, another classic game between the clubs unfolded. The Bruins led 5-4 in the eighth inning when GU center fielder Tyler Frost ripped a deep ball into left field. UCLA left fielder Brett Stephens raced to the warning track and leapt to snag the ball out of the air, robbing the Bulldogs of a potential game-tying homer. The Bruins won the game 5-4 and claimed the series 2-1.
8. Gonzaga women’s soccer vs. UCLA, 2006: The fifth-ranked Bruins welcomed the Zags for a nonconference game in 2006 – one of just two meetings between the schools on a soccer pitch. GU held off UCLA’s attack for a half, but the Bruins headed in a cross less than a minute into the second. UCLA stymied the Bulldogs the rest of the way, outshooting them 15-2 en route to a 1-0 win.