Who: South Carolina (26-10) vs.
USC's dream season ended Saturday with a 77-73 loss to Gonzaga in the Final Four, the Gamecocks unable to top the hot-shooting Bulldogs. The freshman had a game-high six blocked shots against SC.
Though Gonzaga got 23 points from Williams-Goss, who was brilliant making 9-of-16 field goals, its inside presence carried made the biggest difference in the most tense moments of the semifinals.
"I'm really, really proud of our guys and our late-game execution", Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said.
Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss turned the corner and dribbled into traffic, waited for three SC defenders to converge on him in the paint and then lobbed a little hook toward the rim despite Justin McKie smacking him on the left arm.
First, Meeks got fouled, stepped to the line and calmly bricked two. Killian Tillie rebounded for Gonzaga, was fouled and made two free throws to cement the game. I think it's midnight for Cinderella. The Gamecocks need him to avoid foul trouble for a chance at taking down Gonzaga.
"The second part is you've got to get the rebound, and that's been hard for us at times this year". That advantage ballooned to 14 points early in the second half, but SC responded with a furious 16-0 run to take the lead with seven minutes left.
"We said all year that we're a tight group", said Williams-Goss.
The South Carolina comeback fell short, but it was breathtaking as it unfolded. Twice he got to celebrate winning the final game of the season with the Tar Heels, pushing their total to five tournament titles.
Waiting for them were fiery Frank Martin and the big-game Gamecocks - and they took them head on for a tense 40 minutes.
Berry rolled his right ankle when he landed awkwardly on a 3-point shot in the second half of a blowout win against Texas Southern in the first round. The seventh-seeded Gamecocks scored 5 straight to get within 74-72 with just over 2 minutes left. Meanwhile, Thornwell, the NCAA tournament's undisputed best performer to date who fell ill and missed practice early in the week, finished with 15 points on 12 shots. He made both to end the game.
And neither was their first Final Four experience.
MR. MARCH: Tyler Dorsey had been lighting it up through the tournament for OR, shooting 65 percent from 3, but the Tar Heels got in his face early and he never got on track. Gonzaga in particular struggled offensively until they met Xavier in the Elite Eight and it was their defense that really paved to way.
If it came down to history, tradition and experience, North Carolina would run away with Monday's NCAA championship game.
Halftime - Gonzaga 45-36.
Down by 14 points midway through the second half, the Gamecocks rallied all the way back to take a brief lead.
"That's my job to go to the rim and protect", Collins said.