Friday, January 5, 2018

No. 19 Gonzaga 89, Pepperdine 59: Bulldogs roll behind stellar performance from Tillie

Photo Credit: Devin Larkins

MALIBU, Cal.— The No. 19 Gonzaga Bulldogs (13-3, 3-0 WCC) came to Malibu, California for their 85th all-time meeting with the Pepperdine Waves (3-12, 0-3 WCC) and proved worthy of their ranking in an 89-59 win on Thursday night at Firestone Fieldhouse.

The Zags showed why they are ranked as the 19th best team in the country. Using great skills of suffocating defense, swinging the ball across court, forcing their strength in the paint and snatching practically every missed shot off the rim. Playing so well, they gained a 20-point lead mid-way through the second half.

Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie led all scorers with 22 points in the game and pulled down eight rebounds.

Rui Hachimura gave the Zags valuable bench production with five rebounds and added nine points in the first half. 

“Early on, I thought Rui and (Jacob) Larsen came in and really helped us," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "They figured out you gotta take the offensive boards, you got us some extra possessions and some put backs.”

The Pepperdine Waves went into full attack mode beginning the game playing aggressive, Matthew Atewe grabbing an offensive rebounds and playing tough defense. Junior guard Eric Cooper knocked down a three-pointer from the corner then immediately caused a turnover to gain another Waves an extra possession.

With the Waves being so aggressive it forced the Gonzaga Bulldogs to come out sluggish, going to the full court press within the first two minutes of the game. 

“We done it all year, pretty much everybody here and there. It is kind of what we do,” Few said.

Gonzaga players did not seem like they were in the zone. Literally, slipping on the floor several times to begin the game. Which was synonymous with how they played to in the beginning. Starting the game shooting a paltry 16 percent.

Trying to stabilize the team the Zags began to get the ball into the paint; utilizing their forwards Johnathan Williams and Tillie. 

“We kind of established our bigs and were able to play inside out,” Few said. Tillie picked the team up with back-to-back three-point shots to give his team an early 13-7 lead.

Pepperdine wouldn’t settle, bringing the lead down to single digits with six minutes left in the first half but the Zags continued to take advantage of their size, scoring 20 points in the painted area for the half.

The second half started right where the first half finished; with Gonzaga going inside to their big men. Tillie getting two quick buckets on consecutive plays.

Pepperdine had a few bright spots. Cooper lead his team in scoring with 19 points, which included hitting three 3-point shots. Freshman Colbey Ross drop two floaters in the second half and finished with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.

“They’ve been pretty good throughout the year," Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. "The challenge for us is relaying on them too much. Because we have no continuity with all the injuries. We have to put a lot of pressure— too much on them but have responded.”

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action Jan. 6 as Gonzaga will stay in southern California as they take on the Loyola Marymount Lions (5-9, 0-3). Pepperdine will begin to prepare for a matchup against San Francisco (9-6, 1-1), hosting the Dons at home in Malibu.