GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Gonzaga Bulldogs held on to a slim lead late to defeat South Carolina, 77-74, in the Final Four and earned their first ever trip to the NCAA championship game Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Gonzaga will play the winner of today's second game between No. 3 Oregon (33-5) and No. 1 North Carolina (31-7).
Killian Tillie made two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to give No. 1 Gonzaga (37-1) a 77-73 lead that held up in the final moments. Up until that point, it appeared that the No. 6 Gamecocks (26-11) could steal this one from coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga led 65-51 with 10:55 remaining in the second half and appeared to have this game wrapped up when the Gamecocks went on a 14-0 run to tie the game at 65 apiece with 7:39 remaining. PJ Dozier's jumper tied the game. After a Gonzaga timeout, Rakym Felder made two free throws to give South Carolina the lead, 67-65.
Gonzaga responded by regaining control of the game with a three-pointer from Zach Collins and then a dunk from Przemek Karnowski to take a 70-67 lead that grew to 74-69 with three minutes remaining.
South Carolina got to within 74-72 before Felder missed a jumper that would have tied the game with 1:36 remaining. Zach Collins got the rebound for Gonzaga and make both free throws then seconds later blocked a layup attempt by Gonzaga's Sindarius Thornwell with 1:21 remaining.
Later, Dozier missed a three-point attempt and then a shorter jump shot following an offensive rebound with the Gamecocks down three.
With 12 seconds remaining and the score, 75-72, Gonzaga, South Carolina had the ball and a chance. But the Bulldogs intentionally fouled Thornwell with three seconds remaining in the game to prevent the Gamecocks from getting off a three-point attempt.
Thrornwell made the first then missed the second, resulting Tillie getting the defensive rebound, getting fould and then making two free throws to ice the win.
Nigel Williams-Goss led Gonzaga with 23 points and six assists. Collins had 14 points and 13 rebounds off of the bench.
South Carolina shot just 37.9 percent compared to 48.3 for Gonzaga. Chris Silva led the Gamecocks with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Gonzaga led just 38-36 after South Carolina's Justin McKie made a three-pointer with 2:27 remaining in the half of a back-and-forth affair. Then the Bulldogs caught fire. Collins rebounded a Jordan Mathews miss and scored on a layup to jump start 7-0 run to close the half. Williams-Goss made a jumper and then Mathews hit a three-pointer with 48 seconds remaining to give Gonzaga a 45-36 lead at halftime.