Gonzaga holds off South Carolina's comeback kids, advances to NCAA title game

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Their star guard was outstanding.

With the win, Gonzaga will take on either North Carolina or OR for the national title.

The Bulldogs won the West Regional last week and will face 7 seed SC at University of Phoenix Stadium for a spot in Monday's national championship game. "Man, just an awesome, awesome basketball game, with just how hard both teams competed". "We've gotta go out and play and do the best we can".

In this one, Meeks finished 11-for-13 for 25 points and 14 rebounds, none more important than the last one. "But when you've got fifth-year seniors across the board, like they do, they don't make mistakes". For the fourth time in the tournament SC trailed at the half. A gut-wrenching loss to Villanova in a championship game classic a year ago denied Williams a third career title. Williams-Goss' fallaway was short, and the rebound went out of bounds to SC with 12.7 seconds remaining. Gonzaga will be one of the favorites to do so, but will have to get past a SC team that has answered every challenge thrown its way in this tournament. The senior made the first but missed the second and Gonzaga grabbed the rebound up two with 2.2 seconds left. Williams-Goss was also flawless at the line, hitting all three foul shots. That was disappointing. I don't think we got to the free-throw line, what, twice, if that, in the second half. 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).

Freshman center Zach Collins hit an open 3 at the top of the arc to snap South Carolina's 16-0 run and put the Zags back on top, 68-67. "I want to stay in the game and stay dialed in". They had their second-worst game of the season by turnover percentage (with 16 in total) and their third-worst by effective field goal percentage (at 45.5). "We're sitting here 37-1, getting ready to play for a national championship".

Collins and Karnowksi then accounted for the next 7 points, including a 3-pointer by Collins and a thundering dunk by Karnowski.

"It's not [1999] anymore", said SC coach Frank Martin. "But we're also thankful for the SEC that they present unbelievable challenges for us every single night that prepared us for moments like this".

Dozier is averaging 15.3 ppg in the tournament, but he only had 12 games this year in which he scored more than 15 points (five of which came when Thornwell was suspended). In my head, I just said, I had no choice. My drive, they forced me to pass it out on my drives. "I got out of it with healthy rotator cuff and a healthy Achilles, so I think I'm in a good place". The Gamecocks tied the game twice in the first half - 26-26 and 31-31 - but both times the Zags swung the game right back in their favor with 3-pointers from Jordan Matthews. Karnowski, who said he was bothered by some blurred vision, left for the last 5 minutes of the half, but Collins picked him up, finishing with eight points at halftime.

"The second half, I thought we just imposed our will from a defensive standpoint, sped the game up, and got playing at a pace which benefited our style of play", Staley said. If someone told before the game she won't score, I'd say we're in trouble. But Theo Pinson got inside and batted the ball back out to Joel Berry II, who got fouled with four seconds left.

Gamecocks guard Allisha Gray scored 18 points and forward A'ja Wilson finished with 13 points and 19 rebounds to propel SC (32-4).

The Gamecocks (26-11) had reached their first Final Four as a No. 7 seed on the strength of Thornwell's scoring and havoc-creating defense. From his youth in Little Havana in Miami to leading the Gamecocks to the first Final Four in school history, he was the most interesting story of the NCAA Tournament.

The teams combined for 14 blocked shots, eight by Gonzaga.

"It might be your last 40 minutes on the court", said junior guard Silas Melson.

  • Julie Sanders