Glendale, Ariz. – Entering its Final Four matchup with South Carolina on Saturday, Gonzaga is just not used to losing.
The Bulldogs are 36-1 on the year with the only loss coming back in February against BYU. The usual slight against Gonzaga is that it plays in the West Coast Conference, and while it's not necessarily a strong conference it's still extremely difficult to run through a season with just one loss.
The Bulldogs are a tall team with three seven-footers and five players that are 6-foot-10 or taller. Center Przemek Karnowski averages 12.2 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game, and also shoots over 60 percent from the field. Freshman seven-footer Zach Collins comes off the bench to give the Bulldogs another imposing presence on the inside.
For South Carolina's starting frontcourt of Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva, they have to do a good job of limiting the opportunities in the paint, and more importantly, stay out of foul trouble.
"Personally I try to stick to our defensive principles," Silva said. "Try not to let the ball get inside, but in case the ball gets inside, try to (force) a difficult shot."
While the post players receive a lot of attention, the Bulldogs' leading scorer is guard Nigel Williams-Goss. He pours in 16.7 points per game and leads the team in assists.
"We have to stop his penetration," Justin McKie said of Williams-Goss. "You can't get sideways on the ball when he's about to come off a ball screen because that's when he loves to get downhill and draw fouls. He's a strong guard, but Duane (Notice) is a strong guard and he's done a great job of guarding point guards all year. I don't see that being any different tomorrow."
Notice sets the tone defensively as he guards the ball coming up the court, and his defense on Williams-Goss will be extremely important. The senior has done a great job all year long of guarding excellent guards throughout the SEC.
"It all starts with him," McKie said of Notice. "Our defense is good, but it all starts with the guy on the ball. He does a tremendous job on the ball."
South Carolina has enjoyed playing teams from other conferences throughout the NCAA Tournament. Teams within the SEC know what to expect when facing the Gamecocks' tough defense, but for those who don't ever face the Gamecocks, it takes some time to get used to.
South Carolina is second in the nation in defensive efficiency. Gonzaga is first. Because of those numbers, one would expect it to be a defensive battle on Saturday. The Bulldogs sneaked out with a win over West Virginia, a team that has a similar defensive style to the Gamecocks, earlier in the tournament, but Saturday's game against the Gamecocks will be a much different test.
"We're going to see how they respond," Silva said of Gonzaga. "A lot of times when we play a team that doesn't see a defense like ours, they were tired at the end of the first half and couldn't make shots in the second half."
Tipoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 6:09 p.m. ET. It can be nationally seen on CBS.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**