UNC escapes Oregon, advances to National Championship

They will be matched up, in part, against North Carolina's sturdy man in the middle, senior Kennedy Meeks.

South Carolina's Cinderella run to the Final Four ended at the hands of Gonzaga on Saturday night, and head coach Frank Martin had some important words to share - as usual. Collins also had six blocks.

When Gonzaga meets North Carolina for the NCAA national championship on Monday night, it could be quite a brawl.

"Joel didn't play very well", coach Roy Williams said, "but I'm really thrilled he was able to get through the game and not hurt his ankle anymore, and hopefully he'll play better".

It's a big reason why the Zags quickly responded to what became a 16-0 SC run that gave the Gamecocks a 67-65 lead with 7:06 left. But Theo Pinson got inside and batted the ball back out to Joel Berry II, who got fouled with 4 seconds left. He made the first and missed the second on objective.

Clinging to a one-point lead with 5.8 seconds left, the Tar Heels missed four straight free throws, but grabbed the rebounds after both of the misses on the back half.

"In my mind, I was thinking play it out", he said of defending the full possession. "Josh Perkins did a job being really patient and not fouling on the shot". "But I told him, 'Buddy, you got 16 rebounds, we wouldn't have been in this position if it hadn't been for you'". 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. "This is the first time we've made it in history, so obviously I'm a little excited".

Instead, the Zags (37-1) had another "rock fight", as Few called the West Virginia game, against the just-as-physical SC. "Now we're 40 minutes from a championship".

Collins then hit a 3-pointer - his 10th of the season in 21 attempts - to start a 7-0 run.

Before they could, SC was setting up for its chance at tying the score from the field. He finished with eight points and eight boards.

Some NBA draft analysts suggest he could be taken in the first round.

"I've had some really, really tough teams".

Gonzaga also closed in around SC star Sindarius Thornwell, frustrating the NCAA Tournament's leading scorer all game. Collins is an athletic 7-foot freshman who can score inside, outside and may be the best National Basketball Association prospect in the Final Four.

A struggle over the final seven games of the regular season paid off in the first NCAA Tournament appearance in 13 years, and the Gamecocks shed a 44-year streak of not winning a tournament game with an electrifying run to Phoenix.

Gonzaga meets the victor of the North Carolina-Oregon for the national championship on Monday night. It was a smart play called by a smart coach - ahead three, Gonzaga would cheerfully give up two free throws instead of a 3-pointer.

The prediction? He made that to his roommate, Nigel Williams-Goss. He kept it going as Gonzaga pushed a nine-point halftime lead to 14 midway through the second half. 3-point goals - SC 7-20 (McKie 2-2, Notice 2-5, Thornwell 2-6, Dozier 1-3, Gravett 0-2, Felder 0-2), Gonzaga 9-19 (Mathews 4-8, Melson 2-3, Williams-Goss 2-5, Collins 1-1, Perkins 0-2).

Gonzaga was not very good defensively in the first half in the eyes of their coach, despite holding SC to 13-of-35 shooting. Assists - South Carolina 12 (Notice 3), Gonzaga 15 (Williams-Goss 6).

  • Julie Sanders