Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss rolled his ankle and was limping late in the national title game.
Gonzaga was close to its first national championship, leading 65-63 with 1:53 left, but didn’t score again. Williams-Goss tried to lead the Zags back despite spraining his right ankle late in the game, but couldn’t get the lift he needed to get off a shot with 16 second left. “I think it was good for the Zags to get to the national championship game,” Williams-Goss said while fighting back tears during the post-game news conference. “We did a lot of things that people didn’t expect us to do this year. We put in the work and we were right there, good enough to win a national championship.” Williams-Goss is a junior and will have to decide if he wants to return to the Zags or leave early for the NBA.
Goss’ final shot:
It was a ball screen to get Nigel Williams-Goss going downhill to the rim, the way he has hundreds of times this season. Gonzaga, down by three points in the closing seconds of the national championship game, was going to take the easy two and test North Carolina’s nerves at the foul line in the final 15 seconds. But Williams-Goss, the Zags’ best player who appeared moments earlier like he might just carry them to a title, never got his shot to the rim. In fact, it never got beyond the right palm of Kennedy Meeks, whose block led to a run-out dunk for Justin Jackson, clinching a 71-65 victory for North Carolina. As Jackson celebrated, Williams-Goss was 94 feet away, crouched on the baseline, tears beginning to fall. Gonzaga coach Mark Few paused for a moment, started clapping, even though the championship had already been decided. Then he bent down, put his arm around Williams-Goss and whispered in his ear to begin a process of grief that will probably take awhile to recover from.
Hicks scores, Meeks blocks, Jackson dunks, Meeks steals. Re-live the final moments: https://t.co/2kaJddvciz
— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) April 4, 2017
Coach Few on Nigel Williams-Goss: "There's nobody else I'd want taking those last few shots." pic.twitter.com/pkPKHLG9zQ
— Chris Passon (@cpassonPDX) April 4, 2017
Goss, on the injury:
“I sprained it pretty good,” said Williams-Goss, whose final line of 15 points (5-of-17 field goals), nine rebounds and six assists was representative of how gritty he had to be to give Gonzaga a chance. “I stepped on it wrong and rolled it. But my adrenaline was rushing. Nothing was going to stop me from finishing the game.”
Mark Few on Goss:
“He laid it all on the line, and he was the guy that obviously kind of strapped us on his back there, and we were having some real success going to him on some isolations. He was delivering, Few said. “He had a great shot that kind of rolled in and out, and then that last one was tough. I think he didn’t get lift off his ankle like he usually does. But we were basically shuffling through all our options there at the end, and I certainly wasn’t going to go to anybody else to take the last shot.”
Goss’ stat line:
The 6-foot-3 junior finished with 15 points on 5-of-17 shooting, along with nine rebounds and six assists. The West Coast Conference player of the year had 23 points on 11 shots in Saturday’s national semifinal win over the Gamecocks. He averaged 17 points, six assists and five rebounds this season.
The real reason Gonzaga lost?:
As Gonzaga players and coaches replay the “what-ifs” in their minds, they’ll undoubtedly think about big man Przemek Karnowski uncharacteristically struggling to finish at the rim in his final college game, making just 1-of-8 shots. They might think about nine missed free throws or the foul trouble that took Zach Collins, Gonzaga’s most effective big man, off the court early in the second half and then for the final 5:03.
UNC tourney defense vs. opp leading scorers:
Total 21-68 (31%)
— BOBSON DUGNUTT (@NCTopophil) April 4, 2017
Zags head off the floor. Tough finish to the program's finest season. Nigel Williams-Goss emotional as he heads to the locker room. pic.twitter.com/HvT4yoATGe
— Darnay Tripp (@DarnayTripp) April 4, 2017
— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) April 4, 2017
A tearful Nigel Williams-Goss at the podium: We were right there pic.twitter.com/WKyFqk2hJu
— CSN Northwest (@CSNNW) April 4, 2017
Jesus. That Nigel Williams-Goss interview is heartbreaking.
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) April 4, 2017
Williams-Goss crying in every interview. That's a young man that's heavily invested and it should hurt that much. Sunshine follows rain tho.
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) April 4, 2017
Williams-Goss played his ass off. Fought through injuries. Much respect to that guy.
— Ryan Megee (@RMegee12) April 4, 2017
No way I was ending the night without thanking Zag Nation, my teammates, coaches, and family. As… https://t.co/HxwoleFkfK
— Nigel Williams-Goss (@NigelWG5) April 4, 2017
What do you think? Should he have taken so many key shots in the final two minutes?