SALT LAKE CITY, March 22 (UPI) -- Salim Stoudamire scored Arizona's final five points Saturday and Tony Skinner and Blake Stepp each missed potential game-winners, leaving the Wildcats a 96-95, double-overtime winner over Gonzaga in an epic NCAA Tourmanent struggle.
The top-seeded Wildcats survived a memorable effort by Gonzaga, which fell just short of reaching the Sweet 16 in the West region.
Arizona, which held the No. 1 spot in the national rankings for most of the season, will meet Notre Dame in the regional semifinals.
Arizona (27-3) held a 96-95 lead thanks to Stoudamire when it lost the ball out of bounds with 22 seconds to go. The ball initially was awarded to the Wildcats, but official John Clougherty overruled in favor for the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga (24-9) patiently dribbled off some clock before Stepp drove and found a wide-open Tony Skinner on the right wing. Skinner, who scored 25 points, missed his three-point try with six seconds to go.
The ball bounced out to Stepp, who drove the left wing and freed himself with a pump fake for a short bank shot that missed with one second left. The rebound was batted around as time expired.
"I had an eight-foot shot, but it just didn't fall for me," Stepp said. "That just happens."
"I think that was one of the best games of all time," Arizona guard Jason Gardner said. "Double overtime, all those minutes. One of the best coaching jobs on both parts and one of the best playing jobs on both parts."
The entertaining game left both teams exhausted and Wildcats Coach Lute Olson questioning Gonzaga's seed.
"It's the type of game where it's hard for anyone to lose," Olson said. "Like I said about Gonzaga yesterday, I think they're every bit as good as any No. 1 or No. 2 seed."
"Well, it was an awesome game to be involved in," said Gonzaga Coach Mark Few, who is rumored to be among the candidates at UCLA. "It was an unbelievable effort on both sides and it's unfortunate that there has to be a winner and a loser."
Arizona had a chance to win in regulation, which featured a thrilling finish. Gardner had made his first six free throws, but missed the second of two attempts with 12 seconds left, leaving the Wildcats a 78-76 lead.
Stepp pulled up for a potential game-winning three-pointer with three seconds left, but misfired. Skinner tipped in the miss, although teammate Richard Fox almost committed offensive interference before pulling back his hand at the last instant.
Stepp's runner at the end of the first extra session banged off the front rim.
"It seemed like whoever had the ball last was going to win the game," Few said.
In a game full of twists and turns, Fox's follow shot gave Gonzaga a 93-91 lead with 3:14 left to play in the second overtime. Stoudamire responded by swishing a three-pointer just 22 seconds later.
Skinner was fouled and made a pair at the line to put the Bulldogs back on top, 95-94. Stoudamire floated in for a runner and a 96-95 edge with 2:05 to play.
The first extra session saw each team score 11 points and featured plenty of fast-paced action. Stepp made a long three-pointer for an 87-87 tie with 1:12 to go. After a turnover by Luke Walton, Gonzaga found Fox inside for a layup and a two-point lead with 15 seconds left.
With its season on the line, Walton got the ball on the low block and banked in a turnaround to forge an 89-89 tie.
"I know we needed a basket," Walton said. "I got some position down low. J (Gardner) got me the ball and I just went strong with it."
Channing Frye collected 22 points and 12 rebounds and Rick Anderson added 17 and 11. Walton had 16 points and nine assists and the usually steady Stoudamire netted 15 points while making just five of 15 shots.
Stepp, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year, scored 25 points and often looked like Dan Dickau, the Bulldogs' departed scoring leader from last season. Stepp handed out eight assists and nailed several of his shots from way past the arc.
"Stepp is one of the best shooters in the country and he showed that tonight," Gardner said. "He did a great job of getting his legs and hitting big shots."
The Bulldogs were hurt by the fact that imposing forward Ronny Turiaf fouled out late in the second half. Turiaf scored 16 points as he had little trouble going against Frye down low.
"I had something to bring to the table and I had to sit on the bench," Turiaf said.
Arizona also was in major foul trouble, but used its depth to overcome it. Anderson and Frye each finished with four fouls.
"In the first half, it hurt us," Olson said. "We held Channing until the five-minute mark (of the second) and then figured we had to go with him. But I thought both of them used judgment."
The Wildcats advanced to the regionals for the fifth time in seven games and will face fifth-seeded Notre Dame on Thursday in Anaheim.