GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Maybe it was the lingering effects of flu-like symptoms or maybe it was dealing with the long arms and 4-inch height advantage of Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams.
Maybe after playing as well as any player in the NCAA Tournament, Sindarius Thornwell was just due for a bad day.
Whatever the reason, Thornwell struggled to assert himself against Gonzaga on Saturday as the Gamecocks’ first trip to the Final Four ended with a 77-73 loss in the national semifinals.
The leading scorer in the tournament coming into the Final Four at 25.8 per game, Thornwell scored 15 points and shot 4-for-12 from the field for seventh-seeded South Carolina (26-11). He was the last guy on his team to score, hitting a free throw with 3 seconds left that cut the Gonzaga lead to two. He missed his second free throw on purpose but Gonzaga’s Zach Collins got the rebound and made two free throws to clinch the victory.
This national championship trophy will not be going back to Columbia, South Carolina. Maybe the Gamecocks women’s team will do better Sunday in that tournament’s title game.
The men fell short with nothing to be ashamed about. For the fourth time in the tournament South Carolina trailed at the half. The Gamecocks were down as many as 14 in the second half, but responded with 14 straight points to tie it at 65.
P.J. Dozier led the rally and the Gamecocks on the day, scoring 17 points. Thornwell had a big jumper in the run and 10 in the second half after a 1-for-5 first half. Still, even coach Frank Martin seemed befuddled at what was going on with the Southeastern Conference player of the year.
The Bulldogs (37-1) threw multiple defenders at Thornwell, but the 6-foot-9 Williams seemed to give him the most problems. Often the Gamecocks had a hard time even getting the ball in Thornwell’s hands.
The senior wasn’t able to complete South Carolina’s surprising tournament run, but he leaves Columbia having put together maybe the greatest postseason performance in school history.
The Gamecocks were the surprise team of this Final Four. Their run started close to home in Greenville and included a victory over Duke. Next stop was New York and Madison Square Garden and victories over the Nos. 3 (Baylor) and 4 (Florida) seeds in the East Regional.