The Gonzaga Bulldogs will advance to their first national championship game, after the Final Four newcomers outlasted the South Carolina Gamecocks with a 77-73 win.
But considering Saturday night’s neck-and-neck finish, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement in the University of Phoenix stadium until after halftime.
With 11 minutes left in the second half, Gonzaga had what appeared to be a comfortable 14-point lead. But then, South Carolina tightened its defense, and went on an out-of-nowhere 16-0 streak to take the lead. Gonzaga looked out of sorts, before responding with a 7-0 run of its own.
From then on, the game stayed tight, and the fans came alive. It was a fight to the end with the bigger Bulldogs taking advantage of their twin towers — 7-foot freshman Zach Collins and 7-foot-1 senior Przemek Karnowski.
Despite palpable excitement in the arena, the game felt a bit like an appetizer before the second semifinal — with the explosive, athletic Oregon Ducks (splendiferous in their dark green uniforms) taking the stage against the classic powder-blue-and-white North Carolina, with its 5-time championship pedigree.
The winner of the Oregon-UNC game will face Gonzaga for the title on Monday night.