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Gonzaga Basketball

Dave Boling: Drew Timme refuses to ride off into the sunset with all-time performance in win over UCLA

By Dave Boling For The Spokesman-Review

LAS VEGAS – In what looked certain to be Drew Timme’s final game, it seemed he deserved a better sendoff.

A Texan who embraces the cowboy aesthetic, even in Spokane, should have been able to ride into the sunset, maybe offering a humble hat-tip toward the grateful townsfolk.

Adios, amigos, I’ve done all I can here.

He did, indeed. For most of this shootout with UCLA, Timme was not only the Lone Star Zag, he was the lone star Zag. His posse was helpless, practically dragged up and down the floor by Timme’s massive will alone.

But Timme wouldn’t ride away.

And in the all-time greatest game by the greatest all-time Zag, Timme scored 36 points and led a second-half rally that will go down with, what, all those other Gonzaga and UCLA games.

You know these two teams, somebody is always either collapsing on the court in heartbreak or leaping onto the scorer’s table in exuberance.

Timme was brilliant from the start, but the guards were unproductive and the defense listless. The Bruins led by 13 near the start of the second half, with the Zags doing little but watch their All-American unleash basket after basket on a series of indefensible moves.

Julian Strawther and Malachi Smith fired up on offense and the defense finally began squeezing off the Bruins guards.

In the final moments, some missed free throws and a defensive lapse threatened to reverse the Zags’ remarkable comeback, but Strawther nailed a deep 3-pointer to settle the game at 79-76.

“There’s not a lot of teams in the country who bind together and make a run like that,” Strawther said.

Timme took the all-time lead of players with 10 NCAA games scoring 20-plus points.

“We just got hit in the mouth and we had to battle and fight,” Timme said.

The game may have been another example how much Timme had carried this team. But rarely had the Zags given so little support.

They forced only a single UCLA turnover in the first half while they had nine.

“I wasn’t bothered so much with the pace of the game,” coach Mark Few said. “I was bothered by all the turnovers.”

In the end, Timme sank 16 of 24 shots with 13 rebounds. Strawther had 16 points and 10 rebounds after a dismal first half.

“I think we got it right in the second half,” Few said.

It wasn’t easy, but the performance showed even more resilience than they had displayed a number of times this season.

The win seemed much like the last-second hoop by Jalen Suggs that dropped UCLA in 2021 national semifinals.

And the Zags (31-5) now will have a distant replay of the 1999 Elite Eight in which they suffered a narrow (67-62) loss to No. 1-seeded UConn, the eventual national champions.

This was the Zags’ eighth straight Sweet 16 performance and lands them in their sixth Elite Eight.

As Timme raced into the Zags’ locker room, he shouted every team’s mantra this time of year.

“Survive and advance,” he screamed. He added a few more terms for special emphasis. You know, cowboy talk.