GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points, Gonzaga’s 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’ 7-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, that’s 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 6 (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 you’ve got to get the rebound, and that’s what’s 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 we’re 40 minutes from a championship.”
Collins and Karnowksi then accounted for the next 7 points, including a 3-pointer by Collins and a thundering dunk by Karnowski.
Still, South Carolina wasn’t done. The seventh-seeded Gamecocks scored 5 straight to get within 74-72 with just over 2 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 5 minutes of the half, but Collins picked him up, finishing with 8 points at halftime.
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