Then, during a four-minute span in the second half of Gonzaga's 77-73 win over SC on Saturday, those kind of doubts seemed nearly justified: The Zags' 14-point second-half lead completely melted away when they missed five field goals and turned the ball over twice.
Gonzaga is headed to the NCAA championship for the first time in school history after defeating SC 7773 in the Final Four on Saturday night in Phoenix.
As the buzzer sounded on the 77-73 victory over SC on Saturday night, the Bulldogs exploded off their bench. Gonzaga forward Zach Collins blocks a shot by SC forward Maik Kotsar (21) during the second half in the semifinals of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.
The second game features the Pac-12 Tournament runner-up Oregon Ducks against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
North Carolina missed four straight free throws at the end of the game but got offensive rebounds in both cases to emerge victorious.
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
The big man slammed home a dunk and scored another bucket as Gonzaga pulled away.
With the Win: The Bulldogs are are headed to their first National Championship game in school history.
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23, and Gonzaga weathered a 16-0 run that put SC in front with 7:06 remaining, to outlast the Gamecocks 77-73 in the national semifinal Saturday before a crowd of 76,000 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"That run by Carolina", Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters after the game, "it just shows the heart of a lion they have". "It took everything we had to hold them off and come back". The six blocks were a career high. Zach Collins quickly hit a three to put Gonzaga back in front, and the Bulldogs ended up scoring seven points in a row to regain control. "I had four fouls today". "I thought we waited a little long to do that quite honestly".More news: Jon Jones casts shadow over Cormier-Johnson title fight
No. 1 seeded Gonzaga is now just one game away from its first ever National Title. And to be playing the last game of the season, we have a chance to play for it all. 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 made the first shot and appeared to intentionally miss the second one in an attempt to get the rebound with a chance to tie. The senior made the first, missed the second, and Gonzaga's Killian Tillie rebounded and was fouled with 2.2 seconds left.
"We believed in coach from day one", Thornwell said. The second part is you've got to get the rebound, and that's what's been hard for us at times.
Despite having just five turnovers to Gonzaga's 12, Frank Martin's USC team just couldn't find the offense they needed to get the job done. Then South Carolina fought back from 14 points down and retook the lead with 7:06 remaining.
Karnowski and Nigel Williams-Goss kept their poise, and the game became a dogfight in the final minutes.
"I don't know how that went in", Collins said, smiling. "Now we're 40 minutes from a championship".
Still, South Carolina wasn't done.
"Everybody's always picking against us", Notice said Sunday after his team beat fourth-seeded Florida 77-70 at Madison Square Garden.
"They just crowd the paint. And just protecting the rim real well". And I mean, the guys executed it perfectly, especially down the last four minutes. "I couldn't really open it". He received treatment at halftime and started the second half. They had four wins to reach the Final Four, including victories over the Nos. Gonzaga had made three Elite Eights without advancing to the Final Four. Total fouls_South Carolina 14, Gonzaga 21.
PJ Dozier had a team-high 17 points. The junior guard hit 9 of 16 from the field, with a pair of 3-pointers, while handing out six assists, including the pass that led to Collins' go-ahead 3. Chris Silva had 13 points and 13 boards, while Duane Notice had 10 points.