South Carolina plays Gonzaga on Saturday with the winner advancing to the national championship game. Five things the Gamecocks must do to beat the Bulldogs:
1. GO BIG OR GO HOME
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is a load in the paint at 7-foot-1 and 300 pounds, and if he’s allowed to dominate, he will. USC center Chris Silva and power forward Maik Kotsar have to contain him as well as they did Baylor’s Johnathan Motley and Florida’s collection of big guys, staying out of foul trouble and limiting Karnowski’s looks. Conversely, they also have to be productive when the Gamecocks are on offense.
Karnowski or Johnathan Williams won’t be a concern if they can’t get the ball. USC’s defense is predicated on guarding the ball-handlers on the perimeter, denying easy passes inside and forcing off-balance, long jump shots. Gonzaga isn’t a great outside shooting team, so if the Gamecocks make the Bulldogs uncomfortable, their defense becomes even stingier.
Standing for defense or Duane (Notice), it all starts with the senior from Canada. Underrated as the cog of the Gamecocks’ attack, Notice’s on-the-ball defense predicates how the other four Gamecocks space themselves on the floor. He’s likely to take his turn guarding All-American Nigel Williams-Goss and will be trusted with not giving up open shots or letting the ball in the post.
P.J. Dozier has taken his offensive game to another level during the tournament, ignoring the jump shot in favor of attacking the basket. That has to continue. Dozier at the rim is a handful to prepare for and/or stop, and the Bulldogs scouted him as an in-the-lane player. He can’t ignore open jumpers, but he has to keep realizing the best shots are the ones closer to the rim.
Dozier said it Thursday. The Gamecocks aren’t just the Cinderella team of the tournament, they’re a great basketball team. They earned their way to the Final Four and aren’t just happy to be here. They know they’re two wins from a national championship. Why can’t they finish it?
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(7) SOUTH CAROLINA (26-10) vs. (1) GONZAGA (36-1)
What: National semifinal, NCAA Tournament
When: 6:09 p.m. Saturday
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Radio: 107.5 FM
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (13.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (21.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (10.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr. (5.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg); F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Gonzaga’s probable starters: G Jordan Mathews 6-4 Sr. (10.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Nigel Williams-Goss 6-3 Jr. (16.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg); G Josh Perkins 6-3 So. (8.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg); F Johnathan Williams 6-9 Jr. (10.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg); C Przemek Karnowski 7-1 Sr. (12.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Next game: The winner plays the Oregon-North Carolina winner in the national championship game at 9 p.m. Monday.