Gonzaga advances to NCAA championship

► Why Gonzaga (36-1) will win: The Bulldogs will enjoy a significant size advantage, and they know how to use it to great effect with stifling defense and crisp interior passing.

Nigel Williams-Goss had a game-high 12 points at the break while Jordan Mathews shot 3-5 from three to score 9. 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.

Though Thornwell hit 5-of-6 free throws and a 3-pointer to help the Gamecocks go on a 16-0 run and take a late lead, his teammates stopped feeding the horse they had ridden all season, often failing even to look at the team's top player.

"That's my job is to go in and rim protect", said Collins, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Bulldogs advance to play for the national championship on Monday and meet the victor of North Carolina and Oregon.

After another block and another rebound, Carolina guard Rakym Felder was fouled, and made two free throws. "We've gotten put on our backs a couple of times".

SC rallied from a halftime deficit in three of their first four games of this tournament. But Gonzaga made enough plays down the stretch to close out the game.

"I was 100 percent", Thornwell said.

Dozier finished with 17 points to lead the team while Thornwell scored 15 on 12 shots.

"I guess they were making comments that we were the most nervous team in the tournament", Williams-Goss said. They missed six shots and turned the ball over twice.

But Gonzaga shot 48.3 percent from the field and Thornwell, who averaged a tournament-best 25.8 points before Saturday, might still have been feeling the effects of an illness that kept him out of practice Thursday.

Thornwell, who is getting over the flu, has been pushed by a six-game suspension pending from an arrest for drug possession and driving on a suspended license.

Gonzaga led by 14 points with about 11 minutes remaining.

Known for its stifling defense, SC relied on a fired-up offense to make it a game.

When Gonzaga rebounded Thornwell's intentionally missed free throw on his second attempt, it was over. The former Washington point guard has had a spectacular season and it was on full display in every facet of the game on Saturday against SC.

The South Carolina Gamecocks fell in Arizona to the Gonzaga Bulldogs after a hard-fought affair. Mark Few and his team will never have to hear about choking in the big moment ever again. Other key contributions came from center Przemek Karnowski with 13 points and five rebounds, while forward Zach Collins had a big game off the bench with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Gonzaga. North Carolina. One game left for the title.

FOCAL POINT: The distractions of the Final Four are everywhere for the players, from media commitments to fans being there every time they turn around. "That run SC made on us, that just shows the heart of a lion they have and get from Frank (Martin)".

Despite that second-half lapse, Gonzaga proved to be the team it looked like all season: more complete and more balanced, with more offensive options than the opponent. History suggests they will regress back to the mean at some point, and that could happen Saturday in a huge football stadium (shooting percentages have a history of dropping in such places).

  • Leroy Wright