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Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski takes a beating, keeps on battling to the end

Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is hit in the eye while battling South Carolina forward Chris Silva, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in their NCAA Final Four game in Glendale, Arizona. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski is hit in the eye while battling South Carolina forward Chris Silva, Saturday, April 1, 2017, in their NCAA Final Four game in Glendale, Arizona. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – So often, Przemek Karnowski causes concern to his opponents.

He’s the big man putting pressure on the inside. He’s the one standing 1,000 feet high and blocking any offensive player who dares to drive through him.

But on Saturday, Karnowski felt the pressure South Carolina, and for a while he couldn’t seem to shake off those pesky Gamecocks. Particularly South Carolina’s sophomore forward Chris Silva.

Silva didn’t ever let up on Karnowski for the entirety of Gonzaga’s 77-73 win on Saturday. He contested nearly every one of Karnowski’s shots at the rim, forcing the senior center to four missed shots in the first half.

Often South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell would get in on the fun. On several occasions, Thornwell pulled inside with Silva to double up on Karnowski. The two held the big man to six points in the paint before halftime.

Karnowski’s biggest hit of pressure came later in the first when he drove inside and made an attempt to score over Silva. Silva reached up and swatted the ball out of Karnowski’s hands, hitting the center in the face on his follow through.

Karnowski fell to the floor immediately with his hands over his eyes. Freshman center Zach Collins stepped in for Karnowski, who was led off the court and helped on the sidelines.

“I got blocked, but he just put the finger in my eye. I had blurry vision, a little bit shadow. I couldn’t really open it,” Karnowski said.

A few minutes later Karnowski was taken to the locker room, clutching a towel to his eye. He remained backstage for the remainder of the half.

“I saw eye doctor and one of our trainers tried to take care of it,” Karnowski said.

Just before the start of the second half, Karnowski ran back on the court and started shooting warm-up baskets with his teammates. He said his eye was still hurting him, but it was much better than 30 minutes before.

“It started feeling a little bit better,” Karnowski said. “And throughout the whole second half it was getting better and better.”

From the outside, Karnowski’s eye didn’t seem to bother him at all in the second half. The big man returned some heavy pressure on Silva inside and was able to get by the Silva-Thornwell duo easily.

With about five minutes left, Karnowski broke through the Silva-Thornwell defense and his dunk put the Zags up by three points. A minute later, the big man broke the pressure again when he hit a layup over Silva and Thornwell, capping a 7-0 run for the Zags.

Karnowski finished with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and had five rebounds. He helped hold Silva to only one field goal in the second half.

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