HOUSTON — Przemek Karnowski had 18 points and nine rebounds and second-seeded Gonzaga used a big run early in the second half to pull away for a 74-62 win over No. 11 UCLA on Friday night in the Houston Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
The victory puts Gonzaga (35-2) in the Elite Eight for the second time, its first regional final since 1999. The Bulldogs will play the winner of the Utah-Duke game on Sunday.
UCLA (22-14) opened the second half with a 6-0 run to get within 35-34. Gonzaga got going after that, scoring the next 12 points, thanks to the powerful inside game of 7-foot-1, 288-pound Karnowski to make it 47-34.
The Bruins, who lost in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, were done in by a tough shooting night that included long stretches without scoring. They were led by Norman Powell’s 16 points.
They quieted doubters who questioned whether they should be in the tournament by winning their first two games, but couldn’t stay with the Bulldogs on a night when their shots weren’t falling. Powell made just 8 of 19 shots and Bryce Alford was 3 of 11.
It’s Gonzaga’s second win over UCLA this season after also beating the Bruins in December. Gonzaga’s only loss to UCLA in the four-game history of the series came in a 73-71 defeat in the regional semifinal in 2006.
It will be the first trip to the round of eight for Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who took over the season after they last made it.
The Bruins couldn’t find any offense as Gonzaga built its lead early in the second half. A jump shot by Kevon Looney came after their big run to end a five-minute scoring drought and cut it to 47-36 with 13 minutes left.
Domantas Sabonis drew ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd when the 6-10 Lithuanian grabbed a bounce pass from Karnowski and sailed over Isaac Hamilton for a one-handed dunk that made it 51-37 with 11 minutes remaining.
Karnowski found Sabonis again a few minutes later, when he passed it behind his back and Sabonis finished with a layup to push the lead to 57-43.
Gonzaga was up 13-10 with about 14 1/2 minutes left in the first half when the offenses of both teams went cold, combining to miss the next 19 shots. The Bulldogs missed 11 times and UCLA missed the rest.
There were missed layups, shots from the outside that clanged off the rim and even a couple of air balls. For an almost 6 1/2-minute stretch no matter what either team tried, they simply could not make a basket.
Gonzaga extended the lead a bit by making three free throws in that span.
It was Powell who finally ended the field goal drought when he drove into the lane and his layup mercifully fell through the net to cut the lead to 16-12 about eight minutes before halftime.
The Bulldogs got off the schneid a few seconds later on a jump shot by Przemek Karnowski.
Gonzaga was up by 6 soon after that before using a 9-4 run to make it 29-18 with three minutes left in the first half. Byron Wesley led the way in that stretch, scoring five points, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
UCLA cut the lead to 7 with an 8-4 run, and the teams made a basket each after that to leave Gonzaga up 35-28 at halftime.
UCLA: Alford had eight points. ... Looney had nine points and eight rebounds.
Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer had eight points and 10 rebounds after leading the team in their first two tournament games with 23 and 24 points. ... Sabonis scored 12 points before fouling out late.
UCLA: As their season ends they wait to see if Looney will stay or declare for the NBA.
Gonzaga: Faces the winner of the Utah-Duke game on Sunday in the regional final.