Reliving the 2006 NCAA Tournament game vs. Gonzaga (cont.)
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The Bruins defense swarmed the Gonzaga in-bounds play with 19.7 seconds left in the game. Bozeman and Farmar, risking a foul did the impossible. With both of their hands in the face of Batista, blinding him finding an open teammate, Farmar stripped him, saw Mbah a Moute in the paint and launched a pass to him near the basket. At the pinnacle of his jump, Mbah a Moute grabbed the pass and banked in a shot, giving UCLA the 72-71 lead.
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With 8.6 seconds left, Gonzaga tried to push the ball down court, but Mbah a Moute had another miracle for the Bruins as he launched himself toward the ball carrier, stretched out for the ball who was crossing midcourt, stripped him and got possession of the ball, but Gonzaga got a hand on it for a jump ball, with the possession arrow on UCLA”s favor.
“WHAT A GAME!”, the announced declared.
UCLA was given ball and on the in-bounds play, Afflalo was fouled, hit on free throw and pushed UCLA’s lead to two, 73-71. With 1.9 seconds left, Gonzaga rocketed a pass down court on the in-bounds play to Batista who put up one final long shot… that missed.
UCLA had done the impossible. From 17 points down, the Bruins pulled off one of the most memorable comebacks in NCAA Tournament history. The Bruins were for real and they were just getting started.
After that win, they took down a tough defensive Memphis team to capture the West Region and got to the Final Four for the first time since 1995. They took out LSU 59-45 in the national semifinal, and were back in the championship game. It only took Ben Howland three years to return the Bruins to this spot. Even though they lost to the dominant Florida Gators, it was the start of a special period for UCLA basketball as they would return to the Fnal Four two more times in the next couple of seasons.
Though Howland could not raise a banner, UCLA basketball was back to being elite, which is all UCLA fans really want. Though it might take some time for the Bruins to return to the Final Four, it is always great to relive moments like this and hopefully they get back there sooner than later.