Gonzaga Holds Off South Carolina 77-73 in Final Four

The leading scorer in the tournament coming into the Final Four at 25.8 per game, Thornwell scored 15 points and shot 4-for-12 from the field for seventh-seeded SC (26-11).

Williams-Goss missed a shot with 12.7 seconds left and SC rebounded and called a timeout trailing 75-72. The first game features SC against Gonzaga with the official tip-off time of 6:09.

Meeks, the only Tar Heel who could shoot straight Saturday night, grabbed the game-saving offensive rebound in a 77-76 victory over OR after the ice-cold Tar Heels missed their fourth straight free throw down the stretch.

South Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon and North Carolina are the last teams standing in a March Madness field that started with 68 teams.

University of Stadium was rocking hosting it's first Final Four and proved to be a unique environment for the game on it's biggest stage.

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The NCAA Tournament is ready to carve out its finalists from among the Final Four. Look at the National Basketball Association, where big men once ruled before getting usurped by smaller guys who can shoot. Gonzaga brought an especially vocal fan contingent to cheer on the basketball-crazy school from Spokane, Washington.

"Hopefully they can protect it.we'll know at the end of the half", Mark Few said at halftime. "It took everything we had to hold them off and come back". And 7-foot freshman Zach Collins came up with a double-double off the bench (14 points, 13 rebounds) while providing elite rim protection that made it hard for SC to score easy baskets. The six blocks were a career high.

"Obviously I'm bigger than 99.9 percent of the players in the NCAA", Karnowksi said. "I had four fouls today". It seems to me that the United States is a completely different team under their new coach Bruce Arena.

Gonzaga (37-1), the top seed in the West Regional, will face North Carolina, the top seed in the South, for the title on Monday night. They might as well win another two games and finish this thing off, right? The other three finalists, Oregon, Gonzaga, and SC are all entering unfamiliar territory. SC had the final possession down by three, but a foul by Josh Perkins sent Sindarius Thornwell to the line, where he made the first and intentionally missed the second. The senior guard was sick throughout the week and missed the team's first Final Four practice. We can go on and on down the list, but you get the picture.

Frank Martin said the Gamecocks need to find a way to help out Thornwell.

SC reeled off 16 straight points to take a 67-65 lead with 7:06 to play.

The Zags feature a 7-1, 300-pound center (Przemek Karnowski), a light-it-up guard (Nigel Williams-Goss) and a power forward in Johnathan Williams who USC saw two years ago when he was at Missouri. Meanwhile, Gonzaga, so smooth on offense most of the game, went over three minutes without a score. We've had two Super Bowls in those 10 years, three national championship games, we've even had Copa America and WrestleMania come through. SC was more or less doomed, left with two equally unlikely options. The seventh-seeded Gamecocks scored 5 straight to get within 74-72 with just over 2 minutes left.

"That run SC made on us, that just shows just the heart of a lion that they have, that [coach] Frank [Martin] instills in them, that they get from him", Few said. "And we try to do our best to respond the way we learn how to respond".

" We trusted in him in everything", Thornwell said.

I don't think they're nervous as much as excited.

"It was mostly my lower back, maybe a little bit going to my legs", he said. I couldn't really open it.

"I'm going to share this with you, but he said to me last night, 'Man, I feel like I'm letting everyone down, '" SC coach Frank Martin said.

At the other post spot, however, UNC post players have been uncomfortable at times guarding the perimeter, which they will have to do against Oregon.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs had made three Elite Eights without advancing to the Final Four.

The rest of his team: 14 for 55 from the floor. "But when you get to this level of basketball, defense actually wins championships". Williams-Goss and Zach Collins provided key assists, and Gonzaga relied on its defense the rest of the way.

Silva had 13 rebounds for the Gamecocks.

The spread is somewhat surprising for this game, considering how good SC has looked.

Gonzaga won 36 games and lost just once, which also means nothing anymore.

The game was tied at 31 when Karnowski was poked in the eye with five minutes to play in the first half and then Gonzaga finished the half on 14-5 run.

  • Larry Hoffman