Final Four Recap

By Ian Acosta on April 3, 2017
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Wow, what a weekend. Saturday was a great day for games. If Saturday was any indication of what is to come on Monday, I am sure many people cannot wait for the matchup. Let’s get straight to it. Here is a recap of the exciting Final Four games from Saturday night.

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Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

To be honest, I did not think this game would be close at all. I was not a big believer in SC even after their impressive upset win over Duke. They did, in fact, prove me and a whole host of others wrong. Let’s break this game down by halves.

 

This game started off quick despite showcasing two of the nation’s top squads on defense. The first half was largely back and forth basketball with both squads trading buckets at either end of the floor with Gonzaga holding a modest lead throughout. South Carolina got out to an early 10-8 lead about five minutes into the game but that would be the last lead change until very later in the game.

The biggest swing in the half came with about five minutes to go when it was 34-31 Zags. The Bulldogs went on an 11-5 run to close the half largely due in part to Nigel Williams-Goss. He scored or assisted on 9 of the last 11 points to close out the half while South Carolina only managed to convert 2 field goals the last five minutes.

At the half, it was 46-35 Bulldogs with the Zags shooting an impressive 58 percent from the field compared to 37 percent for the Gamecocks. The second half would prove to be a much tighter affair.

 

When would that tight affair come? Not until about midway through the second half. Largely, it was a nine to 14 point spread that the Zags had over the Gamecocks highlighted by the play of Gonzaga guard Williams-Goss. After Williams-Goss converted a three-point play to make it 65-51, the Gamecocks came alive.

PJ Dozier, Sindarius Thornwell, and Chris Silva led a thunderous Gamecocks comeback. Behind a 16-0 run, SC finally took the lead back with seven minutes to play on two Rakym Felder free throws. The game was officially on. The Zags themselves made a 7-0 run over the span of about two and a half minutes to take the lead back 72-67.

With two minutes left, Gonzaga was up two. Down the stretch, however, the Gamecocks could not find the basket they needed. With its final possession, SC looked to take a three to try and knot the game up at 75 apiece but the Bulldogs’ defense played it smart by fouling Thornwell with just three seconds left on the clock.

This forced him to the line to try and either make both and then try and steal the inbound pass for a final shot, or intentionally miss the second free throw to try and get a rebound in order to get a last second bucket. After failing at option two, Killian Tillie nabbed the rebound with two seconds left and hit two free throws at the charity stripe to ice the game 77-73. The Bulldogs are on to Monday night.

Oregon vs. North Carolina

This close game came down to rebounding and free throw shooting in the end. All in all, the game was by and large close throughout with a couple runs thrown in by both teams for good measure. Notable first half highlights came when Oregon guard Jordan Bell turned his ankle at around the five-minute mark.

Oregon then went on a mini-run to make it 30-22 with 3:43 left in the half. Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks then came alive. Ending the half on a 17-6 run, Meeks and Jackson accounted for 10 of UNC’s last 17 points to close out the half and take a 39-36 lead into the break.

 

The second half saw both teams trade blows with one another although the Tar Heels held a lead throughout. That was more or less the story until about the last two minutes of the game when Oregon managed to cut it close. One notable stat that stood out to me was the fact that UNC did not make a field goal the last 5:54 of the game. In that time, they scored six total points, all of which were free throws.

In that same last 5:54? Oregon managed to put up 14 points to make it a one-point game through ferocious defense. However, with a chance to get the ball back not once but twice, the Ducks could not find a way to get a crucial defensive rebound after missed free throw attempts by both Kennedy Meeks and Joel Berry II. A final offensive rebound by Kennedy Meeks sealed it. The last play was mostly a microcosm of the game in general: the Oregon rebounders being unable to box-out Meeks when needed and thus, he made them pay.

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga for all the marbles on Monday night. Who will win it all? Let me know who you got in the comments below.

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