Bulldog Mentality, Zags Headed to First Title Game

Nigel Williams-Goss scored a game-high 23 points for the Bulldogs, who will carry a 37-1 record into Monday's title game against either North Carolina or Oregon.

The Bulldogs squandered all of a 14-point second-half lead before rallying and holding on with two late free throws, ending the surprising tournament run of SC with a 77-73 victory in a Final Four game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday.

The Bulldogs' 7-footers, senior Przemek Karnowski and freshman Zach Collins, took care of things on both ends of the court, combining for 18 rebounds.

However Gonzaga were nearly left ruing what would have been an upset defeat when a 65-51 lead with 11 minutes to play turned into a 67-65 advantage for SC after 16 unanswered points. Thornwell made a block and drew a charge in a momentum-changing sequence for the Gamecocks. With so much time remaining, rushing the process could have a Gonzaga player on the line with a one-point lead, shooting one-and-one, with over 10 seconds left.

But then the Gamecocks mounted a run, scoring 16 in a row at one point.

Led once again by SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell, whose unusual first name inspired the "Sin-derella" tag, the seventh-seeded Gamecocks made another of the same sort of second-half comebacks against Gonzaga that had vanquished both Duke and Florida.

SC still wasn't done.

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So Thronwell missed, and here SC appeared to catch a break. Collins is an athletic 7-foot freshman who can score inside, outside and may be the best National Basketball Association prospect in the Final Four.

Top seeds Gonzaga advanced to the final of the U.S. national college basketball championship after downing SC 77-73 in Arizona on Saturday. Not to mention being a No. 7 seed out of a football conference.

South Carolina: The victory kept up a big run by the South Carolina basketball teams. Its record in the NCAA Tournament entering this year's event was 4-9. SC defeated Marquette (93-73), Duke (88-81), Baylor (70-50) and Florida (77-70) in the tournament so far. He's also recorded three of the four best single-season win totals in program history.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few lavished praise on his team after a pulsating win. Gonzaga shot just under 70 percent from the floor in the first ten minutes and would shot 58 percent in the first half. P.J. Dozier showed out, scoring 17 points on 16 shots and Chris Silva and Duane Notice joined them in double figures with 13 and 10. Although Samuelson would return to the game in the second half, she was a non-factor.

The Gamecocks will be heading home but it was a marvelous run for a team that came into the NCAA tournament losers of six of their last nine games. Karnowski, who said he was bothered by some blurred vision, left for the last 5 minutes of the half, but Collins picked him up, finishing with 8 points at halftime. They didn't get the usual production from Thornwell, who missed practice earlier in the week because of a headache and fever. He managed 15 points on just 4 of 12 shooting.

Guard PJ Dozier had 17 points to lead SC, which had been strong in the second half throughout the NCAA Tournament, outscoring its opponents by an average of 13.5 points after halftime.

In what became the biggest possession of the game, Collins stepped back and dropped in lead-regaining three-pointer off the backboard. Kansas was averaging like 96 points per game in the tournament and they couldn't score.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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