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Gonzaga’s Ryan Edwards expects to play in NCAA tournament

Gonzaga center Ryan Edwards, left, and Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) vie for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Gonzaga center Ryan Edwards, left, and Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander (11) vie for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS – The WCC tournament didn’t go as scripted for Gonzaga’s Ryan Edwards, but he plans to be ready for NCAA tournament opener.

“I’ll be good to go,” said Edwards, as teammates cut down the net following the Zags’ 85-75 WCC championship victory over Saint Mary’s on Tuesday night at Orleans Arena.

The 7-foot-1 sophomore center sprained the MCL in his right knee in the first half of GU’s quarterfinal win over Portland on Saturday. He was on crutches at Monday’s game against BYU but seemed to be moving around a little better Tuesday.

The injury won’t require surgery. Gonzaga will learn its NCAA tournament assignment Sunday. Provided the Zags avoid the First Four on Tuesday, Edwards will have at least 12 days between his injury and the first NCAA game.

Edwards had special motivation for the WCC tournament. His 92-year-old grandfather flew in from Butte to attend the tournament.

“Ever since World War II it hasn’t been his thing (to fly),” said Edwards, who averages 9 minutes per game. “On the day he flew it was his birthday. It means the world to me that he could come down for this.”

Minute men

Edwards’ injury meant longer work shifts for the frontcourt tandem of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis.

Wiltjer played 39 minutes against Saint Mary’s, well above his team-leading average of 33.5. Sabonis, second on the squad at 31.3 minutes, was on the floor for 37.

Both were efficient, combining to make 12 of 18 shots and 7 of 8 free throws en route to 32 points and 12 rebounds. They had just one turnover in 76 minutes.

Against BYU, they teamed for 76 minutes, 47 points (16 of 24 from the field) and 22 rebounds. The two had 37 points and 12 boards in 62 minutes in Saturday’s rout of Portland.

“It’s a lot of basketball when you’re playing 38 minutes,” Wiltjer said. “I’m pretty sore. I’m going to take a couple of ice baths, enjoy the night and hopefully get some rest.”

Wiltjer and Sabonis have a horizontal goal on game days.

“We nap all day,” Wiltjer said, “or literally as much as we can.”

GU used a four-guard lineup for a few extended stretches against BYU but only briefly versus the Gaels.

New locale?

The WCC’s contract with the Orleans Arena expired following Tuesday’s championship game. The conference is studying three options: returning to the Orleans, the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the new T-Mobile Arena, another MGM property scheduled to open next month.

The Pac-12 tournament, which began Wednesday, is staged at the Grand Garden. Gonzaga followers typically occupy more than half of the Orleans’ 8,000-plus seats, a capacity that seems to be the right size for the WCC. The Grand Garden and T-Mobile have larger seating capacities but can be reconfigured for smaller numbers.

The last eight WCC men’s and women’s tournaments have been held at the Orleans. The Zag men have won six of the eight titles, including the last four. The GU women have won five of eight championships.

Numbers game

Eric McClellan was 9 of 9 at the free-throw line and 18 of 18 in the tournament. In the last six games, McClellan has made 26 of 29 free throws. Josh Perkins made all eight of his tournament free throws. … Sabonis hit 20 of 25 shots in three tournament games. … McClellan committed one turnover in 90 minutes, Kyle Dranginis two in 112 minutes. … Wiltjer connected on 8 of 12 3-pointers in the tournament.

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