GLENDALE, Ariz., Sporting Alert — Top-Seeded Gonzaga survived a spirited rally in the second half by No. 7 seed South Carolina to advance to their first-ever NCAA Tournament national championship game.
The Bulldogs held on to beat the Gamecocks 77-73 at Saturday night’s Final Four and will take on the winner of the battle between Oregon and North Carolina in the second semifinal game.
“Just an awesome, awesome basketball game, with just how hard both teams competed,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It took everything we had to hold them off and come back.”
This year’s national championship game is on Monday night (April 3).
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and pulled down six rebounds and freshman Zach Collins added 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in 23 minutes for Gonzaga, which led by as many as 14-point in the second half.
“That’s my job is to go in and rim protect,” said Collins. “I had four fouls today. But I thought, you know, getting those blocked shots would help us.”
Senior Przemek Karnowski finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists and Jordan Mathews chipped in with 12 points for the Bulldogs (37-1), who shot 48.3 percent (29-60) from the field and 47.4 percent from 3-point range.
“To be playing the last game of the year, that’s crazy cool,” added Few.
P.J. Dozier had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead the way for South Carolina, which erased a 14 point deficit by couldn’t complete the task.
Sindarius Thornwell added 15 points and five rebounds, Chris Silva finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks and Duane Notice ended with 10 points for the Gamecocks (26-11).
“They just crowd the paint,” Thornwell said. “They forced me to pass it out on my drives. And just protecting the rim real well.”
Gonzaga, which had to work hard in the second half to hold on for the win, held South Carolina to 37.9 percent (25-of-66) shooting for the game.
“When things got tough we banded together and pulled through,” Williams-Goss said.
“There was no way I was going to come out of the game. This is the last two games of the season. Now we’re 40 minutes from a championship.”