GLENDALE, Ariz. — Maybe it was the lingering effects of flu-like symptoms or maybe it was dealing with all those long-armed defenders Gonzaga kept throwing at him.
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 lead to two. He missed his second free throw on purpose but Gonzaga's Zach Collins rebounded and made two free throws to clinch it.
The problem was, down three with 12 seconds left, Thornwell and the Gamecocks never got a three-pointer off in nine seconds before Gonzaga was able to foul. The play was set for Thornwell to take a three from up top or drive quickly. Instead, Thornwell paused just long enough for Gonzaga to safely foul him without giving up three shots.
"I figured there was enough time where they were not going to foul right away to prevent us from shooting a three," coach Frank Martin said. "But when you've got fifth-year seniors across the board, like they do, they don't make mistakes."
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 Martin seemed befuddled at times with what was going on with the Southeastern Conference player of the year.
Thornwell was held out of practice on Thursday and stayed back at the hotel with a fever and headache while his team met with the media. Thornwell was back with the team the next day.
Thornwell said Saturday he felt some fatigue in the first half, but then — as if catching himself — he added: "But that's still not an excuse for anything. I was fine. I was fine the whole game."
Big crowd in Phoenix: The Final Four brought the largest crowd to attend a sporting event at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Organizers say attendance was 77,612. That is dramatically more fans than the building typically holds for Arizona Cardinals football games. Average attendance for Cardinals games is about 64,000. The Cardinals have sold out every game since the building opened in 2006.
The stadium can hold thousands more seats for basketball in what marks the first time the Final Four has been in Arizona.
Omaha officials works first game of Final Four: The official who received death threats from Kentucky fans after the Elite Eight was the crew chief for the Final Four game between South Carolina and Gonzaga.
John Higgins worked last weekend's game between North Carolina and Kentucky, which the Tar Heels won 75-73. Kentucky coach John Calipari began his postgame news conference talking about fouls and Kentucky fans began harassing Higgins.
The Sarpy County Sheriff's Department said Higgins' roofing company received about 3,000 harassing emails and an unknown number of phone calls, some including death threats. The Facebook page for Higgins' company also was inundated with negative comments.