This was to be an epic rematch. The No. 1 West Coast flavor 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. 

It’s been 234 days since Jalen’s buzzer-beater saved Gonzaga from UCLA. Tuesday’s encore turned out to be a huge dud. 

Instead, fans were treated to a complete demolition of UCLA that revealed one emphatic takeaway: The 2022 national championship will be Gonzaga’s to lose – again. 

The Bulldogs (6-0) delivered a pulverizing knockout punch early on in Las Vegas and the Bruins (5-1) never recovered, falling behind 45-25 at halftime before ultimately falling 83-63. 

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Hot shooting combined with a fast-break offense fuelled by a tight defense was a major factor in the offensive frenzy of the “Zags”. Drew Timme (18 points on the night) played his part as the national player of the year favorite. But it was freshman 7-footer Chet Holmgren (15 points, six rebounds), the projected No. This was the first showdown between No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA draft. His defense (four blocked shots) drove Gonzaga’s fast-paced transition offense that put UCLA away early on. 

“He’s not just a diaper dandy, he’s a diaper dandy deluxe,” legendary announcer Dick Vitale, who returned to the broadcast booth amid his battle with cancer, said. 

In a thrilling matchup last April between the two sides, Gonzaga defeated UCLA 56%-34%. The Bruins couldn’t catch any fire, finishing 2-for-12 from 3-point range. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (19 points) was the only player to really show any offensive life for the Bruins. 

Gonzaga will play No. 6 Duke in Las Vegas on Friday, gets a lot of hype for its offense – ranked No. 1 in KenPom – but it’s the ‘Zags’ defense that made the biggest statement Tuesday night. Holmgren and Timme in the paint create a captivating frontcourt. 

The clash had many pregame stories that didn’t work out. Instead of the Bruins having an edge with three All-American-caliber guards, it was Gonzaga starting point guard Andrew Nembhard (24 points) that looked like the best guard on the basketball court. And a UCLA team that has its entire nucleus back from last season was supposed to have an edge to leapfrog the ‘Zags as the best team in the country. Instead, it was coach Mark Few’s remodeled roster – fueled by Holmgren – that looked the part of a national title contender.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs players celebrate with the Good Sam Empire Classic championship trophy after defeating the UCLA Bruins 83-63 at T-Mobile Arena.

Gonzaga’s national 31-1 runner-up squad, which nearly went undefeated last season, lost three of its starters to the NBA. Only a few of the “Zags” are still trying to win their first national title. This team’s performance against UCLA, then the No. This looks to be another year of an unbeaten season. Texas beat Texas, 86-74 on Tuesday.

The No. 2 team is not as strong as last year, when Baylor, eventual champion, was still a contender to give Gonzaga their first defeat. The No. 2 team isn’t close. It isn’t even here yet in November. 

Source: USAToday.com

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