Final Four 2017: Three reasons Gonzaga beat South Carolina to reach first championship game

By Alec Brzezinski 2 April 2017 220
Final Four 2017: Three reasons Gonzaga beat South Carolina to reach first championship game

South Carolina's magical postseason run came to an end Saturday with a 77-73 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. 

Frank Martin's seventh-seeded Gamecocks dealt all week with star forward Sindarius Thornwell's flu-like symptoms, which hindered him during Saturday's semifinal.

Gonzaga took advantage of the situation and will now play in its first NCAA Tournament championship game in school history.

Here are three reasons why Gonzaga won:

1. Controlled the tempo — Gonzaga has been led by point guard Nigel Williams-Goss all season, and Saturday proved why the Washington transfer was one of the most valuable players in college basketball this season. Williams-Goss, who was able to control a fast-paced tempo in the first half, helped the Bulldogs jump out to a nine-point halftime lead.

The crafty floor general scored 23 points with six assists and five rebounds. He became the first player to have at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in his Final Four debut since Duke's Kyle Singler in 2010.

South Carolina beat Marquette, Duke, Baylor and Florida to get to this point, but none of those teams had a point guard on the same level as Williams-Goss. 

2. Zach Collins — Unheralded entering the season despite being a McDonald's All American last year, the 7-foot freshman likely would be in the lottery pick conversation had he been a starter all season. Unfortunately, he had to settle for a backup role.

Despite coming off the bench, Collins put up one of the most memorable performances in recent Final Four history by scoring 14 points with 13 rebounds and six blocks. His six blocks tied the Final Four record for a freshman  — Anthony Davis also had six against Kansas in the 2012 title game.

The high-low attack of Collins and fellow 7-footer Przemek Karnowski was too much for South Carolina to handle down the stretch.

3. Composure — Mark Few mentioned after the game that Gonzaga faced criticism this season for "failing to play close games", but they proved they had the moxie to win competitive games after enduring the wrong end of a 16-0 run Saturday in the second half.

The Bulldogs had stretched their halftime lead to 14 points until the Gamecocks came roaring back to take a two-point lead. Few never panicked, and his players righted the ship to outlast Martin's physical bunch.

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Alec Brzezinski