Gonzaga men’s basketball’s tournament run may have ended one win short of an undefeated national championship, but the Bulldogs’ overtime thriller in the Final Four over UCLA in Indianapolis netted them a different kind of honor Saturday evening at ESPN’s 2021 ESPY awards.
The Zags’ battle with a white-hot Bruins squad won the fan-voted Game of the Year award, beating out the women’s national championship between Stanford and Arizona, the Winnipeg Jets’ sweep-sealing triple-overtime win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Baltimore Ravens’ 47-42 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 14 of the NFL season. It was GU’s first win at the sports broadcasting network’s yearly awards show.
Former GU point guard Jalen Suggs, whose 40-foot buzzer-beater in the final second of overtime deflated the Bruins’ upset hopes and lifted the Zags to their second national championship appearance, accepted the award on stage in New York City with GU forward Drew Timme, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the West Region after leading GU in scoring with 20,3 points per game while shooting 64.9% from the field in tournament play. Both made the Final Four all-tournament team along with UCLA’s Johnny Juzang, whose game-high 29 points lifted the Bruins to the brink of an improbable run from play-in game to the national championship.
“We just wanted to thank both fanbases for an amazing game and just the opportunity to be on the live stage with live fans,” Timme said while accepting the award.
“It was truly remarkable, especially with what happened this year.”
The game brought in 14.94 million viewers, the second most of the tournament behind the Zags’ title game against Baylor and more than 5 million more than the third-most viewed, a Sweet 16 matchup between Michigan and Florida State.
“To be a part of such a special moment with tons of big shots, the crowd going crazy, family and friends in the stands, it’s truly once in a lifetime,” Suggs said. “To be able to live out those dreams … it was a pleasure.”
Suggs gave props to his UCLA counterparts before Timme closed out their stage time with a tongue-in-cheek challenge for the Bruins.
“Since Jalen is leaving, if they would like to run it back, I’ve been working on my full-court heaves,” Timme said. “So hopefully, we can run it back.”
The teams were scheduled for a rematch in the fall that was initially shelved, but they are working toward a potential November meeting.
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