GLENDALE, Ariz. — Players usually are upset when they foul out of a game, as Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins did with 3.5 seconds remaining in Saturday night’s national semifinal against South Carolina. Not this time, though. This time, it was all part of the plan.

Gonzaga employed a strategy that has been a source of debate for years at all levels of basketball. The Zags had a three-point lead in the closing moments, and rather than allow South Carolina to hoist a potential tying three-pointer, Perkins intentionally committed the foul.

“I stayed consistent with what we’ve done all year,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who made no effort to disguise his thinking. “Hopefully we’ll be in that situation Monday, and it’s fine that they know it. But we love to make the ballhandler use as much time as possible where he’s not in a threatening position to take a shooting motion and then foul. And I thought we waited a little long to do that, quite honestly. But Perk went out and grabbed him before he was in the shooting motion, and as it turned out, you couldn’t be any better, you know?”

The foul sent Sindarius Thornwell to the line. The South Carolina senior hit the first foul shot to make it 75-73, then purposely missed the second in hopes that a teammate would get the rebound or tip it back in for two points. “The plan was to miss left and hopefully Chris [Silva] could tap it out to somebody,” Thornwell said. ‘That was the plan.”

Instead, 6-10 Gonzaga freshman Killian Tillie got to the loose ball and then hit two foul shots to close out the scoring in the Zags’ 77-73 victory.

Not all teams will foul in that situation. They’d rather face down a three-point attempt than hand the opposing team two points (or one point and a chance for more). Few even admitted he had that thought because his team struggles to rebound foul shots.

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“In my mind, I was thinking play it out,” he said of defending the full possession. “But then I went with my gut and said let’s foul if we can.”

Before they could, South Carolina was setting up for its chance at tying the score from the field. The Gamecocks had the ball with 12.7 seconds left after it went out of bounds off the leg of Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams, and they called timeout to design their own plan.

“They took away the initial hit,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said of his team’s first look at a three-pointer. “The plan was that if they took away the initial hit, we were going to drive hard baseline and pin in PJ [Dozier]’s man and get a back-side three.”

Before Thornwell could attempt that drive, however, Perkins grabbed him.

“As soon as he held the ball for that fake, they hand-checked and put us on the line,” Martin said. “Unfortunate.”

Few inserted Tillie into the game to give Gonzaga more height and a better chance for the rebound.

For Gonzaga, it all worked just the way it was supposed to.