Some 77,612 people filled the University of Phoenix Stadium with noise Saturday, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs could still hear the whispers. Play in a mediocre league.
Williams-Goss, a second-team All-American, led the Bulldogs to a 14-point lead in the second half but it disappeared quickly as the Gamecocks (26-11) went on a 14-point run to grab a 67-65 lead with about 7 minutes to play.
Guard PJ Dozier had 17 points to lead SC, which had been strong in the second half throughout the NCAA Tournament, outscoring its opponents by an average of 13.5 points after halftime.
"Throughout the whole second half it was getting better and better", he said. Finally in their first Final Four, the Zags are taking full advantage, too. During that time, the Gamecocks drew five fouls, blocked three shots and forced the Zags into two additional turnovers. "We'll know at the end of the half". "That was really it, they just took the ball out of my hands on my drives". Williams-Goss and Zach Collins provided key assists, and Gonzaga relied on its defense the rest of the way. Nigel Williams-Goss (23), Jordan Mathews (12) and Silas Melson (six) shot all over USC's beleaguered defense, while Collins (14) tore through the Gamecocks' posts.
On Saturday, Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, "Hell, yes". "But what made us great all year is we just stayed in this locker room". "And we've been roommates all year long". If one guy was being talked about on social media more than one other guy we didn't let that affect us.
"Everybody's always picking against us", Notice said Sunday after his team beat fourth-seeded Florida 77-70 at Madison Square Garden. That advantage ballooned to 14 points early in the second half, but SC responded with a furious 16-0 run to take the lead with seven minutes left. "The pain of losing a game eventually goes away". By reaching the Sweet 16 and beyond for the first time under the current tournament format, the Gamecocks earned the attention of a nation and the adoration of a state that had never experienced anything quite like this before.
It wasn't without some tense moments for the Zags, however.
SC had a chance to tie the score at 74, but Felder's spinning layup was blocked by Collins, who was fouled with 1:35 to go.
Thornwell was hacked with 3.5 seconds to go and Gonzaga ahead 75-72. They had a chance to end it but Carolina got a stop to get the ball down three with 12 seconds left. Few, in another smart move, inserted freshman forward Killian Tillie on the block for Przemek Karnowski.
Thornwell wound up making the first free throw and missed the second on objective, but Gonzaga's Killian Tillie picked up the rebound.
"These last two weeks, when we got our name in, (Martin) said we been listening to him all season and don't stop now because we got our name on the board", Thornwell said.
Not them. Not any of them.
"He told me before the game, 'Look, I wouldn't want to be playing against me today, '" said Williams-Goss. "We never gave up, us seniors that came in, in the situation we were in, we never gave up". "So that's what we're trying to do".