Gonzaga- 77 South Carolina- 73, North Carolina – 77 Oregon – 76!!!
April 2, 2017
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South Carolina has been known for their tight defense throughout the tournament, but after all the hype for their defense they had a pretty tough night containing Gonzaga. The bulldogs shot a staggering 48.3% from the field and 9-19 beyond the 3 point line. For the first half, it was no doubtedly Gonzaga’s to lose with a 45-36 lead, but the gamecocks of South Carolina were no slouch in the second half, which they are known for. When it seemed like it was getting out of reach after a 3 point play put the bulldogs up by 14, the gamecocks increased their intensity and fueled a 16-0 to take the lead. After a few back and forth runs, the game was all in the hands of South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell after an incredible defensive stop. Then it wasn’t. Because of the intelligence of Gonzaga coach, Mark Few, who had Thornwell fouled with the gamecocks down by 3 with seconds remaining. So, he had 2 shots which of course wasn’t enough. Gonzaga squeezed a win out to advance them to a championship.
“Swing Away” has been the mantra for the Oregon Ducks, which is a reminder to be aggressive, but their dangerously thin front-court was exposed against North Carolina, so they looked far from their normal selves. Oregon, early on, was playing very sloppy, but the terrible shooting of the Tar Heels made that harder to notice. The Ducks jumped to an early lead of 30-22. Then, just before the half, the Tar Heels turned it up and took the lead with a 7-0 run to make the score 39-36 at half. Then the second half came and it was as tightly knit as possible with so many lead changes throughout. But when it came down to the last few seconds, it was Oregon who let their mistakes plague them. When 6 foot 10 forward Kennedy Meeks approached the free throw line, it was all happiness for Oregon because even though he had an amazing game with 25 points, he was a 63% free throw shooter; he missed both, but Oregon had not boxed out North Carolina so the ball was tipped to Joel Berry who was fouled immediately with 4.0 seconds. He missed both free throws as well. But it was Meeks who rebounded and tossed it out as teammates stormed the court and embraced him while disappointment and heartbreak was all over Oregon fans and players as they had come just a rebound away from a championship appearance.
With the final game set up for Monday night with two #1 seeds going at it for the chance at a title, I just hope it is somewhat as good as the tournament has been thus far, and does all the upsets and wild finishes a bit of justice in the end.