GLENDALE, Ariz. – In comments after Gonzaga’s 71-65 loss to North Carolina Monday night in the NCAA Championship game ending the Zags’ magical season, Coach Mark Few said he could not be more proud of the 37-2 Bulldogs and their program-best accomplishments.
“It was a great ballgame. It was a slugfest out there,” he said. “It was two teams that desperately wanted to be crowned national champion. And I think to be so close for us is a temporarily crushing blow right now. But I’m hoping and knowing that perspective will come with time.”
This season marked the Zags’ first appearance in the Final Four and the most victories in a single season. The Bulldogs earned the top-seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament and had its second No. 1 ranking in program history this season.
“And these guys will realize just what an amazing accomplishment they had. And what an amazing effect they had. I mean, the basketball community was really stale on the Zags. And these guys ignited it and got everybody back to believing that this program was capable of doing this, and more than capable of winning a national championship,” Few said.
Few called junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss “a warrior” who played through a sprained his ankle near the end of the game, and was still able to get a shot.
“The kid’s just a flat-out winner and he’s crushed in there, but we never would’ve got to this point without him. He’s about the only guy we could call on who’s really deliberate down the stretch there,” Few said. “We needed the defensive rebound there on the one shot that ended up being a jump ball and they scored and took it to three. That was the back breaker.”
A disappointed Williams-Goss was asked about the positive aspects of the season.
“It was good for the Zags to get to the national championship game. We did a lot of things that people didn’t expect us to do this year,” he said. “And we put in the work. And we were right there, good enough to win a national championship.”
This team “left the door open for the next group of Zags to come in and do something that we were not able to do,” Williams-Goss said. “And individually you can always learn. It stings a lot right now, but you can always get better. I think all of us sitting up here understand that. I don’t think any of us think we played our absolute best game. And that hurts. But it doesn’t break you. It doesn’t kill you. You’ve just got to get better for next time.”
For senior center Przemek Karnowski, it was his final game as a collegian.
“It wasn’t my best game. We threw the ball into the post and I didn’t deliver. So I’ll probably remember that,” he said. “But at the same time, just playing with these guys for the last time, it’s been an awesome year, and this group of guys brought so much joy this year basketball-wise and life-wise.”
Guard Jordan Mathews said this group raised the bar for future Gonzaga teams.
“I mean, how many teams would take 37-2, league champs, national runner-up? We broke that glass ceiling everybody said we couldn’t get over. Everybody was saying how the Zags couldn’t get to the Final Four. So we did that,” he said. “The Zags keep breaking that ceiling. I have no doubt in the future there will be future Zags that get over this hump.”