Gonzaga holds off South Carolina 77-73 in Final Four

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SC had the ball on the other end of the court here inside University of Phoenix Stadium.

As the dust settled Saturday night inside University of Phoenix Stadium, an easy story line emerged.

Two No. 1 seeds, one in its first Final Four, the other a perennial contender, will meet for the NCAA national championship.

You will hear the theme constantly over the next 48 hours. Less than a minute later, Nigel Williams-Goss drove inside the key and passed to Przemek Karnowski, who powered through South Carolina's Chris Silva and Sindarius Thornwell for a two-handed dunk. "They were Cinderella and all that pretty stuff in '97".

They've been climbing the mountain all year.

The Gamecocks took control of the tempo but nothing else, as they pulled the trigger too quickly, too often on shots and were outscored 14-5 to go into intermission down 45-36.

Martin's memory is a hair off - it was 1999 when Gonzaga marched to the Elite Eight and began its run of 19 consecutive NCAA tournaments. The title is not David vs. Goliath.

Now the Zags are playing for a trophy Monday night. They're a huge, huge reason why we've made it this far. Silva grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds on another possession, eventually getting fouled and sinking a pair of free throws.

Since November, many experts formed the consensus that North Carolina possessed more talent than any team in the country.

Karnowski, a senior, has been the starter all season. They have rebounding muscle in Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, more than enough scoring punch from Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II and an intelligent Swiss Army knife in Theo Pinson. Clemson standout Jaron Blossomgame was among the more notable players to attend last year's combine before returning to the Tigers for his senior season.

Some fans say, they're surprised the Gamecocks made it this far. We never thought we'd be here, but we worked every day.

Open Google Maps right now and play 'Ms. Pac-Man' around Utah
This is yet another classic example of how Google celebrates April Fool's Day , not to mention their great love for video games. We love Google for all that it does, but this year it's getting a C+ for creativity, since this is basically a recycled idea.

"We talk and work on little things all the time", Williams said. That team was Gonzaga. They spent four week ranked No. 1. 2, 3 and 4 seeds in the East region.

It takes only one piece of evidence to prove Gonzaga's worthiness as a powerhouse.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash). Gonzaga players celebrate after the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against South Carolina, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The 7-foot freshman might be playing in the National Basketball Association this time next year.

For almost 30 minutes on Saturday night, it didn't look like Gonzaga would need to be picked up.

"I think the respect thing has to go out the window", he said. Then he backed it up.

A lot better looks like this: Collins had 14 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high six blocks in a season-high 23 minutes.

"We said all year that we're a tight group, we said that we're brothers, we said that we stick together, and it shows", Williams-Goss told CBS.

None is brighter and bigger than a Final Four. They're all very different and can bring us something different on a given night. "We feel confident, no matter who we go up against, that our bigs are going to deliver for us".

OR had a great start and almost a miraculous finish, but the Ducks could not overcome North Carolina's size and strength. Meeks has devoured rebounds all tournament, the 14 boards he grabbed Saturday against OR bringing his tournament total to 59.

Few described his decision to foul up three as "consistent" with what he's been doing all season, and is there a better word to describe Gonzaga in general?

Outside the paint, the matchups will be equally magnificent. Thornwell was still largely a nonfactor on offense, but he was making plays on defense. It's going to be fantastic, and it will be a fair fight. Berry and Josh Perkins will hound one another relentlessly.