The South Carolina Gamecocks face the Gonzaga Bulldogs in one of the Final Four NCAA Men's basketball games on Saturday, starting time at 6:39 PM ET, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Now, the Bulldogs will be heading to the National Championship game (for the first time in school history) to play the victor of the second match-up between North Carolina and Oregon. Gonzaga took a nine point lead into halftime, but the margin didn't quell the efforts of a reinvigorated SC squad - the Gamecocks tied the game at 65 with 7:39 remaining in regulation.
But with the SC fans making deafening noise, the Zags remained poised, going on a 7-0 run of their own that included four points from 7-foot, 300-pound Polish monster Przemek Karnowski, who returned in the second half after suffering an eye injury late in the first half. They had trailed in three of their four NCAA games and roared back, including a 65-point second half against Duke in the second round.
The Nike-sponsored Bulldogs were led by guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who had 23 points and chipped in six assists and five rebounds.
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At 7-foot-1, 300 pounds, Karnowski may be the biggest player in the country. He stayed down for several minutes before making to the bench and going to the locker room. Thornwell, P.J. Dozier and co. vs. Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Kennedy Meeks - it'd be fantastic.
It wasn't the kind of game that Thornwell and Gamecocks fans had come to expect from their star player, especially in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs' 7-footers, senior Przemek Karnowski and freshman Zach Collins, took care of things on both ends of the court as they combined for 18 rebounds. "That was really it, they just took the ball out of my hands on my drives".
Before that run, SC struggled to keep up in the rebounding department as five minutes into the second half, it trailed 26-18 in rebounds and had just five offensive rebounds. "It's a pretty big stage and none of us on this team ever been on this type of stage or platform", South Carolina's Rakym Felder said. Johnathan Williams is scoring 10.3 points per game while he is leading in rebounds with 6.6 per game.
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"His kind of whole package is very unsafe", said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who was named national coach of the year Thursday.
Alanna Smith, left, shoots past SC forward A'ja Wilson (22) and guard Allisha Gray. Finally in their first Final Four, the Zags are taking full advantage, too. Average attendance for Cardinals games is about 64,000.
Collins final blocked shot helped maintain a three-point lead with 1:21 remaining.
Gonzaga shot 58 percent from the field in the first half and opened up a nine-point halftime lead.
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