GLENDALE, Ariz. (SportsDirect Inc.) — Top-seeded Gonzaga and seventh-seeded South Carolina are both part of the Final Four for the first time in school history and the winner of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament national semifinal contest in Glendale, Ariz. will face either North Carolina or Oregon in Monday’s championship game.
Gonzaga lost one game all season to enjoy the top campaign in program history while the Gamecocks overcame a poor end to the regular season with an electric tournament run that included an upset of Duke.
South Carolina’s superb run has been fueled by star senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who missed Thursday’s practice with an illness but insisted earlier in the week that his squad isn’t satisfied with the unprecedented success that includes a school record for victories.
“We’re not going to settle for this and we still feel like, we got one more game,” Thornwell said at a press conference. “Why not us? Why not go win it all? And that’s our mindset. We feel like we can compete with anybody right now in the country.”
Gonzaga no longer will have to hear about never reaching the Final Four and senior shooting guard Jordan Mathews is glad about that.
“The Final Four doesn’t validate or discredit a season,” Mathews told reporters. “It’s not an end-all, be-all. Gonzaga has been a great program, and we’re just happy to keep carrying the torch.”
TV: 6:09 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (26-10): Thornwell averages 21.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional after averaging 25.8 points in the Gamecocks’ four tourney wins, including 26 points in the 77-70 victory over Florida in the regional final. Sophomore guard PJ Dozier (13.8 scoring average) and senior guard Duane Notice (10.2, team-best 67 3-pointers) are forces on the perimeter while sophomore forward Chris Silva (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) is the Gamecocks’ top inside player. Coach Frank Martin preaches tenacious defense and South Carolina allows 64.9 per game – limiting third-seeded Baylor to 50 in a 20-point trouncing in the Sweet 16.
ABOUT GONZAGA (36-1): Junior point guard Nigel-Williams Goss (16.7 average, 4.6 assists) has been a difference-maker and scored 23 points in the 83-59 rout of Xavier that catapulted the Bulldogs into the Final Four. Williams-Goss, a standout defender with a team-best 64 steals, is averaging 15.5 points in the NCAA Tournament but is just 19-of-61 shooting from the field. Senior center Przemek Karnowski (12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds), Mathews (10.7 points, 79 3-pointers) and junior power forward Johnathan Williams (10.3 points, team-leading 6.6 rebounds) also score in double digits.
1. Martin has a 10-4 record in NCAA Tournament games while Gonzaga’s Mark Few – who earned national Coach of the Year honors on Thursday – has a 25-17 mark.
2. The Bulldogs are allowing an average of 59 points in the tournament and have limited three opponents under 60 points.
3. Thornwell’s lowest scoring output in the tourney is 24, and he is also averaging 7.5 rebounds.
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