The Final Four’s first big block came from an unexpected source
Despite all of the talk about South Carolina’s defense this week, it’s actually Gonzaga that entered Saturday’s Final Four contest between the two teams with the top defense in the country based on adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom.
One reason the Bulldogs’ defense has been so good? It’s really hard to score on them in the paint. Gonzaga has a bevy of big men — Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins and Killian Tillie are all massive presences inside the arc — that patrol the area to challenge shots. Opponents have made just 39.8 percent of their 2s against the Bulldogs this season. That’s the best mark in the country.
Well, early on against the Gamecocks, it wasn’t Karnowski, Collins or Tillie protecting the rim. It was 6-foot-4 guard Silas Melson:
Melson flew in from the back side of the rim to toss the layup attempt of 5-foot-10 Rakym Felder and help Gonzaga start a fast break the other way. It was Melson’s sixth block of the entire season. Not a bad time to come up with that one, eh?
The rejection was also the second rough play in a short stretch for Felder who fired up an ill-advised 3-point attempt in transition just a bit before testing Melson at the rim. The jumper drew the ire of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, which likely isn’t the way that Felder wanted to start his first Final Four appearance.
Overall, Melson has been a terrific role-player for the Bulldogs this season. He’s averaging 7.3 points in 23.9 minutes per game and is one of Gonzaga’s most important 3-point shooters who can help space the floor for the post players like Karnowski, Collins, Tillie and Johnathan Williams. If Melson and the bigs can put everything together, they just might earn the Bulldogs their first trip to the national title game on Monday.