Gonzaga advances to NCAA championship

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Kennedy Meeks saved the game. No surprise there, either.

That spirit served the Gamecocks well once the program was good enough to play games that mattered, and it almost took them to Monday's championship game.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are no longer a cute story from the Pacific Northwest; they're now one win away from securing their first-ever national championship.

If a No. 7 seed from a major conference can be a Cinderella story, that's what SC was, rebounding from a rough finish to the regular season to make an improbable run to the Final Four after not winning a tournament game since 1973.

"The journey we've been on has been unreal", said Williams-Goss after the game. In three games against South Dakota State, Northwestern and West Virginia, Gonzaga shot a combined 41.6 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from the 3-point line.

The program that is labeled a mid-major and acts and plays like a major, seeks to finish the deal and give Few one more opportunity to turn a handstand in the locker room. He had 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including a five-minute stretch with three 3-pointers and two free throws that helped the Heels to a double-digit lead and put them on the verge of a runaway midway through the second half.

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Never happened. And after Keith Smith's layup pulled OR within one with seven seconds left, it looked like it would come down to free throws.

Przemek (pur-zeh'-mehk) Karnowski finished with 13 points and Kilian Tillie iced the win by hitting two free throws with 2.2 seconds left. Collins also had six blocks.

"We said all year that we're a tight group", said Williams-Goss.

Despite their leading scorer Sindarious Thrownwell just making one field goal in the first half, SC kept pace with the Zags offensively by making threes, getting to the foul line and capitalizing off of turnovers. He said his vision blurred but improved after he returned to the court in the second half. Thornwell made the first free throw and purposely missed the second before the Bulldogs hauled in the rebound to effectively seal the victory with 2.2 seconds remaining.

SC coach Frank Martin wanted Thornwell to make the first free throw, which he did, and then miss the second one to the left, hoping that Gamecocks forward Chris Silva could tap the ball out to a teammate to get a last-second shot to send the game into overtime or win it in regulation with a 3-pointer. "We now have a lot of people believing that we can do great stuff", Gamecocks forward Chris Silva said.

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. That would be the last time any lead change would go down as SC would only get as close as two points the rest of the way. Thornwell, who scored over 20 points in each of South Carolina's first four tournament games, just didn't show up late when the Gamecocks needed him most. Johnathan Williams is scoring 10.3 points per game while he is leading in rebounds with 6.6 per game.

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