Of all the jaw-dropping statistics Gonzaga put up in Saturday night’s 90-60 romp at Saint Mary’s, perhaps the most impressive numbers belonged to Killian Tillie.
The smooth senior forward connected on 7 of 10 shots with three 3-pointers and scored 19 points — at 50% to 60% of full strength coming off a sprained ankle, in head coach Mark Few’s estimation.
Tillie has become adept at adjusting when his body doesn’t fully cooperate after a string of injuries over his four seasons. He was available to play Thursday but wasn’t called upon as the Zags broke away from Loyola Marymount in the second half.
As it turned out, Tillie probably could have stayed glued to the bench in Saturday’s mismatch against the Gaels, but he wasn’t about to miss out on his final trip to Moraga, California. He even dressed up in his favorite shoes, Nikes from the PK80 two years ago that he noted are “solid for my ankle.”
“If we play like we played, anything’s possible,” said Tillie, when asked if he was surprised the margin reached 34 points in the second half. “We were really patient on offense, just taking good shots. And defensively, they didn’t have a 3 in the first half. We stopped them right there.”
Tillie said resting Thursday “was a good solution to play (Saturday).”
“He just stretches the floor, the game’s easy and the ball moves, our offense flows better and he gives us another rim protector,” Few said of Tillie’s impact. “Sadly, he was just rounding into the old Tillie those last three games (before his injury), but we’ll get him back.”
The Zags’ postseason chances improve exponentially if Tillie returns to the agile, springy level he reached last month. In that regard, Gonzaga’s schedule is helpful, with a single game this week against Pepperdine on Saturday in Malibu, California.
“It was pretty early (to play) since my ankle sprain, but it felt all right,” Tillie said. “Shots were falling and I was moving OK. Still a lot to heal.”
Woolridge plays through pain again
Senior Ryan Woolridge came up holding his left hand after a hard fall under the basket late in the first half. He played on, purposely avoiding eye contact with the bench to stay in the game.
That’s become a familiar sight for Gonzaga’s point guard. He rarely gets through a game without experiencing at least a few possessions with some discomfort. He also rarely leaves the floor.
“It’s all good,” said Woolridge, after logging a team-high 33-plus minutes. “I play through injuries, gotta play through injuries.”
Anything to worry about? “Naw,” he shrugged. “Just a little something, like a hard fall.”
Watson on the mend
Freshman forward Anton Watson made the Bay Area road trip a few weeks after his season-ending shoulder surgery. Doctors told him they were pleased with the procedure and the overall condition of his left shoulder, which should assist his recovery.
Watson was in good spirits as he watched teammates during pre-game drills, in part because he only has to wear a shoulder sling for a couple more weeks.
Few said after the Loyola Marymount game that he doesn’t pay much attention to the army of bracketologists, or modern technology for that matter, noting that he “doesn’t have email, doesn’t have a password.”
But Few made sure to watch CBS Saturday morning when the selection committee revealed its top 16 seeds because the 10-member committee’s opinion is the only one that matters.
Gonzaga got the nod over San Diego State as the West Region’s top seed. The Aztecs were the last of the No. 1 seeds and shipped to the East. The difference in the regional round is a trip to Los Angeles versus a cross-country trek to New York City.
“It’s still early,” Few said. “It’s hard to really worry about any of that stuff, but I would just say I don’t know how many teams can come into this building and win like that because (Saint Mary’s) is a really good team, an NCAA Tournament team. And if anybody knows it’s us because we play them and we play in (the tournament) all the time.
“They’re going to give people absolute fits in the tournament because of the way they execute and the way they play.”
Gonzaga moved up to No. 2, behind San Diego State, in the NET rankings after Saturday’s win. Earlier in the week, Few applauded No. 39 NET Saint Mary’s and No. 23 BYU for elevating their nonconference schedules.
“These are Quad 1 games,” Few said. “We need as many of those as we can get.”