Gonzaga vs. UCLA: 2 teams, two greats, one day in Westwood

For more than three years, Gonzaga coach Mark Few had waited for the perfect matchup. The matchup between the school’s two best teams each year: a potential national championship game and a matchup that could present its own kind of special journey.

Gonzaga, the team that Few built with basketball intelligence, character and an unquenchable drive that produced four national championships, was matched up with a team from one of the most popular sports in the country and one of the most noble.

“It’s not necessarily just what they do in the big games, but what they do off the court,” Few said. “To be out on the Valley of the Moon … how many [UCLA] have done it with this kind of equity and value placed on their name in California and across the country?”

After all, Gonzaga had never played a team from the Pac-12 — especially one that boasted its own yearning to play on the biggest stage. It was easier for Gonzaga to switch out players each year because the best players were available — with Dorell Wright playing this year at both Gonzaga and Cincinnati, for example.

Despite the exposure the team gained for itself, with its 83-77 win Thursday, Gonzaga was never able to put a team away, as it has before. The game was almost never close, even though UCLA was there.

However, the Zags were finally able to earn a victory that was as meaningful off the court as it was on it.

Few felt the way the game turned out was a great tribute to his former player, Travis Wear, who last season led UCLA to the NCAA championship game.

But, like when it came to the wins, he couldn’t help but be extra ecstatic when the final horn sounded. And for the Zags, the confidence gained from the game will be second nature.

Wear returned to Spokane, Wash., in the offseason. He was a popular player, and a symbol of Gonzaga’s storied history. In one game, his memories helped to fuel a team that may be able to compete for future national championships.

“This is pretty cool,” Few said. “It’s like kind of magical.”

Leave a Comment