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Drew Timme carries Gonzaga on his broad shoulders again

If Gonzaga would have lost to UCLA on Thursday night, Drew Timme’s final shots in a Bulldogs jersey probably would have been the two free throws he missed with 25 seconds to play.

But instead of leaving T-Mobile Arena with a loss, he left having played the greatest game of his career.

We’ll see what he has in store for Connecticut on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

Timme extended one of this century’s great college basketball careers, finishing with 36 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-76 victory over UCLA before an announced crowd of 18,544 — the first in Las Vegas to see the West Regional semifinals.

The masterpiece paved the way for hometown hero Julian Strawther’s game-winning triple in the final seconds while doubling as Timme’s 10th 20-point game in NCAA Tournament play.

No player has more — or a more memorable mustache than the 6-foot-10-inch senior from Richardson, Texas.

“I’m not speechless a lot of the time,” said Timme, twice the West Coast Conference’s Player of the Year and the witty host of the “Gimme Timme Podcast.” “But I’m pretty speechless after that.”

Rest assured, he wasn’t the only one.

‘Time and time again’

Timme’s four years at Gonzaga feel more like 14. But he’s only 22, though his post play suggests otherwise. He’s tormented WCC defenders with a variety of pivots, spins, jump hooks, good ol’ fashioned overpowering backdowns and up-and-unders — more and more resembling a modern Kevin McHale in a sport seeping further and further beyond the 3-point line.

The Bruins aren’t exempt despite their Pac-12 pedigree, guaranteeing with their loss that the Conference of Champions still hasn’t claimed a championship in men’s basketball since 1997.

Timme poured 25 points on them in the Final Four as a sophomore and added 18 points and eight rebounds last season in Las Vegas. They knew what was coming Thursday and were still more helpless than ever before.

Defenders were fodder for his feast beneath the basket, and when he wasn’t dominating down low, he wouldn’t hesitate to grab a rebound and go.

He even hit a 3-pointer for good measure because the sport, after all, is seeping further and further beyond the 3-point line.

“He’s been remarkably consistent his entire career at just — he just delivers,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said Wednesday. “He delivers, and this year our first 10 or 15 games we’ve leaned on him as hard as we’ve leaned on anybody, even in guarantee games we were in trouble and had to throw him the ball 12 straight times to eek out a seven-point win.

“I would argue you have to be every bit as tough and a little bit tougher to consistently deliver night in and night out when the opponent is trying to stop you with everything they’ve got. Double teams, their best defender, fouling, anything. And he’s just been able to rise to that occasion time and time again.”

‘Somehow, some way’

As they did Thursday. And as he did again, making 16 of 24 field goals to buoy the Bulldogs against a grizzled UCLA squad, against whom they overcame a 13-point halftime deficit.

The Bulldogs are in the Elite Eight for the fifth time since 2016, meaning they’re three wins from their first national title. Timme was a sophomore in 2021 when they fell to Baylor in the championship game.

The only thing he hasn’t done is capture the national title, something he can still fulfill to cap his final season in Spokane, Washington.

“We just got hit in the mouth, and we had to battle and fight. … We just rallied,” said Timme, averaging 21.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. “Somehow, some way, we dig deep and find a way to just come together and rally. That’s the beauty of this team. We may be down, but we’re not out.”

Respect Gonzaga.

Respect the mustache.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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