Final Four: Gonzaga Defeats South Carolina, Heads to Championship Game

SC is seventh nationally in 3-point defense, holding teams to a tick under 30 percent from the arc and reached the Final Four by holding Florida to 7-of-26 shooting from 3 in the Elite Eight.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are headed to the national title game.

Gonzaga 77, SC 73: Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points, Gonzaga's big men combined for 27, and the Bulldogs used some last-second strategy for a 77-73 victory over SC in a matchup of first-time teams at the Final Four.

"I don't know if I can come up with a statement that can describe this game", Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

"I guess they were making comments that we were the most nervous team in the tournament". He finished 11 for 13 to match his career high with 25 points.

Nigel Williams-Goss, the All-American guard who led the Zags all season but had struggled for much of the NCAA tournament, came alive in force - 23 points, 9-of-16 shooting, six assists, five rebounds - with a relentless combination of perimeter shooting and savvy probing penetration. He had four fouls at the time. "I think the first half I was a little tired a little bit, but that's still no excuse for anything".

The victor of this match will play the victor of OR vs North Carolina in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

Williams-Goss missed a shot with 12.7 seconds left and SC rebounded and called a timeout trailing 75-72.

Mostly on grit, rebounding and Meeks, North Carolina (33-6) led this game the entire second half and appeared poised, time after time, for a knockout of the never-say-die Ducks (32-7).

North Carolina missed four straight free throws at the end of the game but got offensive rebounds in both cases to emerge victorious. Several mobbed freshman Killian Tillie, whose only points of the night, a pair of free throws with just over two seconds left, were as big as any for the 'Zags.

"We've been practicing it all year", Few said. Instead, Thornwell paused just long enough for Gonzaga to safely foul him without giving up three shots.

Well Bulldogs fans, it looks like we'll be seeing you Monday night. The Gamecocks took a timeout, and it seemed logical that Southeastern Conference player of the year Sindarius Thornwell would get a touch.

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"The plan was to miss it left and hopefully, Chris could tap it out to someone", Thornwell said.

No. 7 seed SC, ever full of surprises, made that inevitable run - coming all the way back from a 14-point deficit midway through the second half to take a 67-65 lead with 7:06 left via a 16-0 run - and forced Gonzaga to earn it, possession by brutal possession, until the final seconds. "I was fine. I was fine the whole game". OR and UNC will tip off roughly 40 minutes after the conclusion of that game.

Then, after a dunk by Przemek Karnowski, he fed the big man again for a layup that put the Bulldogs up 72-67 with 4:48 to play. The 'Zags have the nation's most efficient defense, per KenPom (South Carolina's is No. 2), and have the type of balance and depth offensively that coaches salivate over.

The loss ends a Cinderella run for the Gamecocks, the lowest-seeded team in this year's Final Four.

The Under Armour-sponsored Gamecocks were led in scoring by guard PJ Dozier, who had 17 points.

"They crowd the paint", Thornwell said. My drive, they forced me to pass it out on my drives.

"That's my job, is to go in and rim protect". The 6-foot-5 junior had 19 rebounds, 11 in the second half, to go with 13 points.

"I've had some really, really tough teams". He said his vision blurred but improved after he returned to the court in the second half.

In the end, SC has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, this is the first time the Gamecocks entered into the Final Four. It had won four NCAA Tournament games total before this season.

The rest of his team shot a brick-a-minute 14 for 55 from the floor (25 per cent). Collins had six and Silas Melson had two for the Bulldogs. Four-point lead. Game over. They don't generally light it up from three-point range, but they knocked down 12 treys in their regional final win against Xavier. Jordan Mathews was 4 for 8 while Williams-Goss and Melson had two each and Collins had one.

SC counters with Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva.

  • Sidney Guerrero