Thornwell bottled up by Gonzaga as South Carolina's run ends

Thornwell bottled up by Gonzaga as South Carolina's run ends

Thornwell bottled up by Gonzaga as South Carolina's run ends

Gonzaga players celebrate on the court over their victory over SC in the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.

The Gonzaga-South Carolina meets the North Carolina-Oregon game for the national championship on Monday. Gonzaga in particular struggled offensively until they met Xavier in the Elite Eight and it was their defense that really paved to way. No. 7 SC (26-10).

The man top-seeded Gonzaga (36-1) relies on to lead its defense is 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski. Karnowski crumbled to the floor and the first person to check on him was South Carolina's Martin.

After Gonzaga built a 65-51 lead, it appeared the Gamecocks just didn't have enough to compete. It cut into the lead and gained confidence from that rally.

Despite playing against the highly rated Gonzaga defense, SC suddenly found life, going on a 16-0 run in just three minutes to erase what looked like an increasingly hopeless double-digit deficit and instead put the Gamecocks ahead. South Carolina's adjusted defensive efficiency ranks second in the country, trailing only Gonzaga's.

Nigel Williams-Goss' 85 points are the most in Gonzaga history for a single NCAA Tournament.

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The Bulldogs steadied themselves with a 7-0 run, punctuated by a dunk and a layup from Karnowski.

The teams traded blows until the final moments of the game when USC's Sindarius Thornwell intentionally missed a free throw, only to have it recovered by the Zags. He holds the distinction this year as the only coach to face North Carolina, Gonzaga, South Carolina and Oregon. He made the first, then intentionally missed the second but Gonzaga got the rebound and put the game away from the free throw line for a 77-73 victory.

Standing at 7-1 and weighing in at 300 pounds, Karnowski is an absolute tank on the interior.

It was a rough-and-tumble first half as play in the paint had everything but helmets and shoulder pads. Isaiah Hicks made a signature play with this two-handed jam. He stayed down for several minutes before making to the bench and going to the locker room.

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks, left, and Justin Jackson led the Tar Heels offensively with 25 and 22 points respectively. Meeks made the most of every opportunity he had, connecting on 11 of 13 shots from the field. OR plays North Carolina in the second game at 8:49. Gonzaga kept on getting inside buckets to answer Carolina scores. Not only would this match up one of the most winningest programs in all of college basketball with a program with very little basketball tradition until this month, but there's immeasurable and lasting bragging rights at stake in a border war to determine a national champion.

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