Gonzaga 77 South Carolina 73
In the first national semi-final on Saturday, the Gonzaga Bulldogs did just enough to defeat a pesky #7 seed from the East Region, South Carolina, 77-73.
Essential to the success of the Bulldogs was the play of freshman forward, Zach Collins, who had possibly the best game of his brief college career, scoring 14 points with 13 rebounds and six blocked shots.
The lanky seven-footer came off the bench for 23 minutes of floor time and made every one of them valuable to the team effort, taking advantage of the smaller Gamecock forwards and defending the paint with his size and agility.
After a back-and-forth first half, Gonzaga finally seized a nine-point lead heading into the break and eventually led by 14 points, though a furious South Carolina spurt brought the Gamecocks all the way back and briefly into the lead at 67-65 with just over seven minutes left to play, but Collins' crucial three-pointer put the Bulldogs back on top and they would not trail the remainder of the game. In the final minutes, the Bulldog defense was too much for South Carolina, holding the Gamecocks to just two points in the final 2:30. When Killian Tillie notched a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left, putting the Bulldogs up by four, the celebration began.
Gonzaga's first ever trip to the Final Four will now also include a first ever championship game when they meet the North Carolina Tar Heels Monday night at 9:20 pm ET for the national championship. The top seed from the West, Gonzaga haeds into the game with the best record in the country, 37-1.
North Carolina 77 Oregon 76
North Carolina narrowly escaped an upset at the hands of the Oregon Ducks with one of the strangest final seconds of any game, tournament or otherwise, missing four free throws in the final 5.8 seconds while managing to hold onto a one-point lead, eventually advancing to the National Championship game with a 77-76 victory.
With the score at 77-76, Kennedy Meeks, who led all scorers by tying a career-high 25, stepped to the foul line with 5.8 seconds left, for two shots. Missing them both, an alert and aggressive Theo Pinson knifed in for the rebound, getting it outside to Joel Barry II, who was immediately fouled. Berry, normally a clam, 79% free throw shooter, also mangled both of his freebies, but Meeks grabeed the rebound from between two Oregon players and pitched it outside to Pinson, who took two dribbles before throwing the ball high into the air as time expired.
While the Tar Heels led most of the game, the Ducks would simply not go away, and had a legitimate chance at the win, but the Tar Heels, who led the nation in rebounding, did what they did best at the end, denying the Ducks a final scoring opportunity.
Throughout the game it was Meeks who kept North Carolina motoring toward the victory, finishing with 25 points on an incredible 11-for-13 shooting performance, with 14 rebounds, eight of them on the offensive end.
The Tar Heels meet Gonzaga in the National Championship Monday night. The game will be televised live on CBS with the tip at 9:20 pm ET.
Check College Basketball Daily on Monday morning for a preview of the National Championship match-up.
NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Saturday (4/1) Games
|Conference (# of teams)||Record||Winners (# of Wins)|
|ACC (9)||10-8||Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (5)|
|Big East (7)||6-7||Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)|
|Big Ten (7)||8-7||Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)|
|Big 12 (6)||9-6||Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)|
|SEC (5)||11-5*||Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (4)|
|PAC 12 (4)||10-4||USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (4), UCLA (2)|
|Atlantic 10 (3)||1-3||Rhode Island (1)|
|American (2)||1-2||Cincinnati (1)|
|West Coast (2)||6-1||Gonzaga (5), St. Mary's (1)|
|All Others (23)||(4-23)||Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)|
*One SEC loss and one SEC win occurred in the East Regional Final, South Carolina 77, Florida 70