64 teams entered, only 4 remain. The Final Four is here, and the Fourth String team is here to recap the Elite Eight action that got us here.
#7 South Carolina defeats #4 Florida 77-70
#7 South Carolina continues their historic run by knocking off the #4 Florida Gators to clinch their first Final Four appearance in team history. Senior Guard Sindarius Thornwell did it all for the Gamecocks, scoring a dominant 26 points with 7 rebounds, continuing his red-hot tournament streak. Sophomore Guard PJ Dozier also put up 17 points, continuing his upward streak throughout the tournament. Senior Forward Justin Leon scored 18 points for Florida,but the Gators were unable to stop South Carolina’s late game surge and hold on for the win. The game was played almost entirely in the paint, as South Carolina and Florida shot 20% and 26% from beyond the arc, respectively. The Gators may have actually been hurt by their overtime win against Wisconsin, as the team seemed to be tired out by the end of the 2nd half and allowed South Carolina to overtake them. The Gamecocks will play #1 Gonzaga on April 1st, meaning at least one team who has never made the championship game will advance.
#1 UNC defeats #2 Kentucky 75-73
Freshman Guard De’Aaron Fox and the #2 Kentucky Wildcats were understandably emotional after their loss to #1 Kentucky. After Kentucky Freshman Guard Malik Monk hit the game tying three, #1 UNC’s Sophomore Guard Luke Maye hit the game winning jumper with only 0.3 seconds to go. De’Aaron Fox and Freshman Forward Edrice Adebayo lead Kentucky with 13 points each while 5 Wildcats made it into double digit scoring. Kentucky was out-rebounded by the Tar Heels 44-34 but made up for it by forcing 16 turnovers while only turning the ball over 9 times.
#1 UNC pulled off the win behind Junior Forward Justin Jackson’s 19 points and Luke Maye’s 17 points and game-winner. Junior Guard Joel Berry II scored 11 points while playing with two sprained ankles (He sprained his left ankle in the first half and aggravated an earlier sprain in his right ankle). The Tar Heels were 46.6% from the field but only 3-15 from beyond the arc, allowing Kentucky to remain within striking distance for the entire game and take a small lead late in the second. The Tar Heels, however, were able to keep Kentucky to 41% shooting and prevented De’Aaron Fox from repeating the 39 point performance that pushed Kentucky past UCLA. UNC will play #3 Oregon on April 1st for a shot at the NCAA championship game.