Gonzaga hold off South Carolina to book place in first ever national title game

Gamecocks roar back in second half but fall short at the end, and Bulldogs will play the winner of Oregon-North Carolina on Monday

Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points, Gonzagas big men combined for 27 and the Bulldogs used some last-second strategy for a 77-73 victory over South Carolina on Saturday in a matchup of first-time teams at the Final Four.

The Bulldogs seven-footers, senior Przemek Karnowski and freshman Zach Collins, took care of things on both ends of the court, combining for 18 rebounds. Collins also had six blocks.

Gonzaga (37-1) will face the winner between North Carolina and Oregon in the national championship game on Monday night.

To be playing the last game of the year, thats crazy cool, Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.

Williams-Goss missed a shot with 12.7 seconds left and South Carolina rebounded and called a timeout trailing 75-72. South Carolina passed the ball around and Gonzaga fouled Sindarius Thornwell with 3.5 seconds left. He made the first and missed the second on purpose. Killian Tillie rebounded for Gonzaga, was fouled and made two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to cement the game.

We had been practicing it all year and we always want to foul under six (seconds). I thought the guys did a great job, Few said. Josh Perkins did a job being really patient and not fouling on the shot. The second part is youve got to get the rebound, and thats whats been difficult for us at times. They executed great.

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.

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 were 40 minutes from a championship.

Collins and Karnowksi then accounted for the next 7 points, including a three-pointer by Collins and a thundering dunk by Karnowski.

Still, South Carolina wasnt done. The seventh-seeded Gamecocks scored five straight to get within 74-72 with just over two minutes left.

PJ Dozier led the Gamecocks with 17 points and Thornwell, the leading scorer in the NCAA tournament at 25.8 points per game, finished with 15 on 4-for-12 shooting after starting slow.

Karnowski went down on the court in the first half after being poked in the right eye as he took a shot underneath the basket. Karnowski, who said he was bothered by some blurred vision, left for the last five minutes of the half, but Collins picked him up, finishing with eight points at half-time.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/01/gonzaga-south-carolina-final-four-ncaa