The Gonzaga Bulldogs, lead by the play of star guard Nigel Williams-Goss built up a big lead early, but the South Carolina Gamecocks showed the resolve that has been a feature of their run to the final four, coming all the back. In the end, it came down to the final seconds, and the Bulldogs puched their ticket to the National Championship Game with a 77-73 win on Saturday.
“Just an awesome, awesome basketball game, with just how hard both teams competed,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few told the Associated Press. “It took everything we had to hold them off and come back.”
Gonzaga Defeats South Carolina to Advance to National Championship Game
Williams-Goss had 23 points, as the Bulldogs built up a 14-point second half lead. He was supported by freshman Zach Collins, who had a real coming out party performance. Collins had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and a career high six blocked shots for the Bulldogs. However, the Gamecocks showed resolve, and went on a big second half run to take a 67-65 lead with less than seven minutes on the clock. From there it was a back and fourth game that came down to the final two possessions.
The Bulldogs led by three, when Williams-Goss missed a late shot that would have iced the game. The Gamecocks got the rebound and came down the court to try to set up a game tying shot. However, Sindarius Thornwell was fouled before that could happen, sending him to the free throw line. He made the first shot, but with the Gamecocks still down two, intentionally missed the second. The Bulldogs would rebound the ball, and a foul on Killian Tillie would lead to Gonzaga icing the game with two free throws with just 3.5 seconds on the clock.
“We had been practicing it all year and we always want to foul under 6 (seconds),” Few said. “Josh Perkins did a job being really patient and not fouling on the shot. The second part is you’ve got to get the rebound, and that’s what’s been difficult for us at times. They executed great.”
PJ Dozier led the Gamecocks with 17 points. Their star guard, Thornwell had a bit of an off night with just 15 points.