Zags hold off Gamecocks 77-73 in Final Four

In the first half, Gonzaga hit over 57 percent of its shots, rolling up 45 points, and flexing its muscle over the SC defense that had carried the unlikely No. 7 seed from a possible first-round tournament loss to the verge of the national title game.

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski (24) celebrates with teammates on the bench during the second half against SC in the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

"Man, just an awesome, awesome basketball game, with just how hard both teams competed", Gonzaga's Few said. So it goes, as they say.

They will meet the victor of the North Carolina Tar Heels and Oregon Ducks, who are playing now from University of Phoenix Stadium.

Gonzaga was fueled by Nigel Williams-Goss, who had 23 points and six assists.

The ball swung to Thornwell, but before he could hoist a shot from in front of the SC bench, the Bulldogs' Josh Perkins reached out and fouled Thornwell on the arm with 3.5 seconds remaining. They didn't get a shot.

Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins committed a foul with 3.5 seconds to go, sending guard Sidarius Thornwell to the line.

"I think the respect thing has to go out the window", he said. "Right when I flashed up to the high post, I knew I was going to shoot it". After he made the first, he missed the second off the back of the rim, Gonzaga's Killian Tillie came down with the rebound and was fouled with 2.2 seconds left. Just getting to the Final Four was a first, and now they are one victory from lifting the trophy.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are headed to the national title game.

The Gamecocks had the ball while down three points with 12 seconds left.

"I mean, that run SC made on us, that just shows the heart of a lion that they have".

"When you get people to travel across the country by the masses because they believe in what you do, it's powerful stuff", Martin said. "They've impacted our community in an unbelievable way, which is worth so much more than the score of a game".

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey). Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski (24) celebrates after the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against South Carolina, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

Williams-Goss, a second-team All-American, led the Bulldogs to a 14-point lead in the second half but it disappeared quickly as the Gamecocks (26-11) went on a 14-point run to grab a 67-65 lead with 7:06 to play.

The Gamecocks rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to take the lead, but the Bulldogs were able to put enough plays together to cinch it. It was that kind of day for Collins.

"The journey we've been on has been unreal", said Williams-Goss after the game.

Williams-Goss meanwhile said Gonzaga had been motivated by pre-match talk from SC that they might be paralyzed by nerves.

"I was 100 percent", Thornwell said.

Thornwell, who had been averaging about 25 points per tournament game, had a quieter night with 15 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

"You can be a champion without winning a championship", Martin told reporters after the game.

For that brief second-half span, the Bulldogs looked, maybe, a little overrated.

Collins made probably the most critical of his six blocks with 1:19 left, putting away a shot from South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell, but a missed jumper from Williams-Goss with 16 seconds left kept the Zags' lead at 75-72.

But Gonzaga saw the final few moments of this game perfectly with a well-timed foul and ideal execution and now moves on to play for the national championship. Even though UNC beat Kentucky to advance to the Final Four, I'm still not a believer in this Tar Heel team and I think the Ducks will take this one and it might not be close.

  • Julie Sanders