Gamecocks’ Historic Season Ends in Final Four to Gonzaga

The road to a championship ends at the Final Four. So does the dream run for the Carolina Gamecocks.

Despite erasing a 14-point deficit in the second half, USC was unable to beat Gonzaga in the National Semifinals, falling to the Bulldogs 77-73.

Both teams made their Final Four debuts on Saturday, as Frank Martin’s seven-seed faced their highest-ranked opponent in March Madness, the one-seed Zags. After five ties and four lead changes in the first half, the team from Spokane built a 45-36 lead by the end of the opening 20 minutes The Dogs had made five of their first nine three pointers, shooting 58-percent from the field. The garnet and black only made 37-percent of their first half attempts and Sindarius Thornwell was limited to five points.

Gonzaga’s lead grew to it’s peak with under 11 minutes to go, up 65-51. The Gamecocks then rallied back, like they’ve done all throughout their postseason push, and went on a 16-0 run. Rakym Felder’s free throws with 7:06 remaining in the game gave them their first lead since the score was 10-8.

While Carolina was 3-0 in tourney games where they trailed at the half, they couldn’t hold off the Zags. Mark Few’s program answered back with a 7-0 spurt of their own in just over two minutes of game time.

The underdogs would get as close as two in the game’s final minutes, but would never get closer. Twice they had the chance to tie:  Rakym Felder missed a field goal down two with just over a minute and a half remaining, and Sindarius Thornwell was fouled before a shot with three seconds left, trailing by three. The Bulldogs were already in the double-bonus, meaning Thornwell would have to shoot two free throws. The SEC Player of the Year made the first attempt while purposely missing the second, in hopes of an offensive rebound, but the Zags controlled the miss and would end up advancing to their first National Championship game in their program’s history.

PJ Dozier had a team-high 17 points. Thornwell added 15, his lowest scoring output in March Madness, in what ends up his final game of his historic USC career. Chris Silva had 13 points and rebounds.

Duane Notice closes his Carolina career with 10 points, while Irmo’s Justin McKie ends his with eight, all scored in the first half.

The Gamecocks record-setting season ended with a 26-11 record, most wins in a single season in program history.

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