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GU freshman forwards play key roles

Gonzaga  freshman forward Killian Tillie, right, played a big role during the Bulldogs’ win over Iowa State. (Willie J. Allen Jr. / Associated Press)
Gonzaga freshman forward Killian Tillie, right, played a big role during the Bulldogs’ win over Iowa State. (Willie J. Allen Jr. / Associated Press)

There was a simple reason Gonzaga coach Mark Few had freshmen Zach Collins and Killian Tillie on the floor in crunch time against Iowa State.

“I trust them,” Few said. “They’re ball players.”

The front-court duo helped Gonzaga hold off Iowa State in Sunday’s AdvoCare Invitational championship game.

Collins scored Gonzaga’s last six points against Iowa State. The 7-footer hit his first 3-pointer of the season to make it 70-64 with 5:36 left. He then drew two fouls posting on the low block, resulting in a pair of made free throws.

He grabbed a defensive rebound with 14.6 seconds remaining and was fouled. He hit the front end of the 1-and-1 before missing the second.

“I’m more comfortable calling Collins’ number,” said Few, whose team entertains Mississippi Valley State on Thursday. “He’s a really good shooter. I was surprised he missed the (one) free throw. He’s a really good free-throw shooter.”

Collins showed some frustration with foul calls against Quinnipiac, but he committed just four fouls combined against Florida and Iowa State.

“I have a lot of passion and when things don’t really go the way I think they need to go I kind of show it and I should probably stop,” Collins said. “I have to learn to play without fouling a little better.”

Tillie made a 15-foot jumper in the first half with the Cyclones packed in the paint. ISU tried the same tactic with 40 seconds remaining and Tillie narrowly missed a floater in the lane.

Gonzaga inserted Collins and Tillie with 1 minute left, in part because of their agility and ability to switch on screens. Tillie guarded Deonte Burton, who had scored a game-high 29 points, and the 6-5 wing missed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left.

On the final play, Tillie raced from the edge of the lane to contest a Monte Morris corner 3-pointer that was released just after the buzzer sounded.

“I’m telling you Tillie knows how to play,” Few said. “It might not be the way a lot of us are used to watching standard basketball, but the kid has a nose for the ball, very intuitive and he’s not afraid to take a big shot.

“There’s not one bit of tentativeness in those two, which sometimes leads to mistakes, but that’s OK right now. They come off the bench and they’re aggressive.”

With Gonzaga trailing 50-45 against Florida in the semifinals, Tillie grabbed two offensive rebounds and assisted on a Nigel Williams-Goss 3-pointer. Tillie hit a 3-pointer and grabbed a defensive rebound to help GU pull even at 57.

“Certainly there’s a lot we can learn (from the tournament),” Few said. “But we have some real potential for growth with those two guys, ‘J3’ (Johnathan Williams) still kind of learning what it’s all about and even Nigel and Jordan (Mathews) are still learning and adapting to what we want to do.”

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