No. 1 seeded Zags will play for first basketball championship in school history after holding off South Carolina, 77-73.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Gonzaga junior Nigel Williams-Goss had heard every insult — and seemed to remember them all.
“They were making comments that we were the most nervous team in the tournament,” Williams-Goss said of the team’s critics. “We just heard everything this year. We’ve heard the conference (is weak). We’ve heard we haven’t played tight games. That we’re not tough. We’ve heard everything.”
The top-seeded Bulldogs must have believers now after their first trip to the championship game with a 77-73 Final Four victory Saturday gainst No. 7-seed South Carolina before 77,612, the largest crowd to attend a sporting event at University of Phoenix Stadium. Average attendance for Cardinals games is about 64,000.
Gonzaga will play North Carolina here Monday night.
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“To be playing the last game of the year is just crazy cool,” said coach Mark Few, who performed a celebratory handstand in the locker room.
All Gonzaga (37-1) had to overcome in the Final Four was a gruesome eye injury, lost momentum from relinquishing a 14-point lead, its toughest defensive opponent and three of its best players teetering on the edge of fouling out in the final minutes.
Of course, the Bulldogs also were faced with the historical mountain of having never played in a Final Four game, either.
But the Zags prevailed, beating fellow Final Four novice South Carolina.
“You have 37 wins in a college season, I mean that’s just unbelievable,” said Williams-Goss, who scored a game-high 23 points. “We have a chance to play for it all. And we’re here to win it.”
The Bulldogs held off a furious rally as South Carolina used a 16-0 run to overcome a 14-point deficit. But the Gamecocks’ lead lasted less than 30 seconds as Gonzaga responded with a 7-0…