UCLA, undermanned and run ragged, looked left for dead. It couldn’t handle Gonzaga big man Drew Timme and, after dominating the opening 20 minutes, went into a shell offensively in the second half.

The Bruins trailed 72-62 with 2:40 to play.

But a 14-3 run capped by a triple from Amari Bailey gave the Bruins a seemingly improbable 76-75 lead with 14 seconds to play.

And then Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther broke the Bruins’ hearts.

Timme scored 36 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Strawther added 16 points and 10 boards to lead the 3-seed Bulldogs past the 2-seed Bruins and into the Elite Eight with a 79-76 victory.

The first half went the way it needed to go for the Bruins — who were without starting center Adem Bona. It was defense and The (new) Big Three leading the way as UCLA jumped out to a 46-33 halftime lead.

UCLA forced turnovers (nine of them) and got out on the break. Those turnovers provided UCLA with 15 points.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 12 points, grabbed six boards, and dished three assists while constantly forcing the action. He was aggressive from the opening tip, taking 13 shots. Tyger Campbell added 13 points and five assists on 10 shots. Amari Bailey had 13 himself.

All before halftime.

Gonzaga was better with the ball in the second half, and Timme continued to hammer away with a footwork clinic in the paint. He had 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the second half.

And the Zags locked down on defense. Pick-and-rolls from Campbell and Bailey killed the Zags in the first 20 minutes.

Coach Mark Few switched up the coverage and the Bruins’ guard pairing scored a combined seven points on 2-of-12 shooting in the second half. Campbell was 0-for-6.

The Bruins went more than 11 minutes of game clock without making a shot from the field. A layup from Jaquez with 12:34 to play gave UCLA a 59-52 lead.

UCLA’s next make from the floor came from Jaquez with 1:14 to play.

During the interim, the Zags went on a 20-3 run while the Bruins missed 11 consecutive shots and went six minutes without scoring a single point.

But Gonzaga kept the door open with missed free throws at the charity stripe. Anton Watson split a pair with 41 seconds left and then, after Jaquez got a driving layup to go with 33 seconds left that brought the team within two points, Timme missed two foul shots.

Bailey grabbed the board, kicked it to Campbell, and then got it back on the left wing to bury a go-ahead triple.

That looked like it would be the game-winner until Strawther delivered his deep triple.

Jaquez finished with 29 points and 11 boards on 12-of-25 shooting. Bailey had 19 and five boards. Campbell finished with 14 and nine assists, but shot just 5-of-16 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3. The only other Bruin to provide much in the scoring department was David Singleton (eight points), who shot 2-for-7 from the field and 2-for-5 from 3.

Without Bona or Jaylen Clark, UCLA had to lean on its star seniors and on the freshman Bailey. That trio nearly carried the Bruins across the finish line.

Falling short — a second consecutive year ending in the Sweet 16 — forces what will likely be painful questions for coach Mick Cronin this offseason. What might have been if he’d had a healthy team come tournament time?

And what happens next with Jaquez and Campbell? Either could technically return. When they announced returns last offseason, they did so with a message that they were coming for a national title.

With that goal still unachieved, is there one last run for this core?