The UCLA Bruins’ season came to an end at the hands of Gonzaga on Thursday, as the Bulldogs clinched a 79-76 win to punch their ticket to the Elite Eight.
UCLA built a 13-point lead at halftime of the contest, but Gonzaga did not throw in the towel. The Bulldogs clawed their way back into the game during the second half, as Drew Timme scored with ease in the paint and the team hauled in much-needed offensive rebounds on a regular basis.
While Amari Bailey stunned Gonzaga with a late 3-pointer that provided UCLA with a narrow one-point lead, Julian Strawther managed to respond with a deep 3-point shot that ended up being all that the Bulldogs needed to secure the win.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell may have already donned a Bruins jersey in a game for the final time, while David Singleton’s run at UCLA has come to an end after five seasons. During a press conference after the contest, Bruins head coach Mick Cronin took some time to reveal his postgame message to his players, primarily to these three seniors.
“Then I told them how proud I was of them because they didn’t flinch,” Cronin said. “I mean, you lose two of the best players in the Pac-12, defensive player of the year, freshman of the year, we still expect to win. And I’m happy because they still expected to win. I’m happy that they still expected to win. And that we’re still upset that we lost.
“I had people say what a game we played against Arizona in the conference finals. Thought you were going to get beat 25 without those two guys. … Took a great player, a 32-foot shot, and a great player in Drew Timme, and a really tough whistle to send us home, despite everything we’ve been through.”
Cronin also lauded Jaquez for how he has dealt with adversity since joining the program.
“And Jaime Jaquez, same thing,” Cronin said. “Came in to us as a human turnover the first two months. And I just played him because he was as crazy as me. We were losing. … I said I can build a program with this guy because he’s got heart. Now, look at him.”
The Bruins finished their 2022-2023 campaign with a 31-6 record.