The South Carolina Gamecocks basketball team went where their team had never been before- The Final Four. Their Cinderella run stopped there Saturday night after they fell to Gonzaga in Phoenix, Arizona.
The top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs, led by Nigel Williams-Goss, and 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski, were able to subdue South Carolina, something that was no easy task.
Both teams played a fairly fast-paced style of play throughout the game, which led to a high scoring first half. Gonzaga led South Carolina 36 to 34 with 3 minutes remaining before halftime, taking to a 45 to 36 lead into the locker room. Toward the end of the first half, Gonzaga’s Karnowski went down with an injury to his eye. However, the Bulldogs persevered and still managed to take their sizable lead into the half.
Both teams went back to full strength in the second half, and it provided a thriller of a finish. Gonzaga pushed their lead to a 65-51 advantage, before South Carolina took the momentum. The Gamecocks went on a 15-0 run and took back the lead, seizing a 66-65 advantage. At that point, Gonzaga big-man Zack Collins hit a clutch three-pointer to end the South Carolina run, and retake a 1-point lead. Gonzaga never trailed from that point on. South Carolina’s last chance came with three seconds left, when they cut Gonzaga’s lead down to 75 to 73. South Carolina fouled Gonzaga freshman Killian Tillie, and he sank two free throws to send the Gamecocks back to Columbia. In the end the scoreboard read 77 to 73, in favor of the Zags. Gonzaga’s precise free-throw shooting combined with a couple costly South Carolina mistakes propelled the Bulldogs to a Final Four victory.
Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss led all scorers with 23 points. His contributions may have been the deciding factor with a couple of Gonzaga’s big-men in foul trouble toward the end. Gonzaga forward Zach Collins made a big impact with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks. 7-foot-1 Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski had a good game, despite foul trouble, with 13 points, and 5 rebounds. Bulldogs guard Jordan Mattews made his presence known with 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Gonzaga’s only player to foul out was guard Josh Perkins, who exited with only 2 rebounds and 1 assist.
South Carolina’s best play came from P.J. Dozier. He had 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Chris Silva played well around the boards with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell contributed 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks, despite beginning stricken with a virus the entire week.
At the end of the day, possibly the best overall team in the NCAA Tournament has advanced to the National Championship. This did not come easy, especially with the caliber of opponent as the South Carolina Gamecocks. Another fact worth noting is that both teams had never made the Final Four, and neither coach had coached a Final Four game, yet both teams played like college basketball blue-bloods. The National Championship should provide another solid matchup with the Gonzaga Bulldogs facing either North Carolina or Oregon on Monday night in Phoenix.