Johnathan Williams didn’t start a basketball game Monday night for the first time in at least nine years.
Killian Tillie didn’t start for the first time this season.
If Gonzaga coach Mark Few has said it once, he’s said it dozens of times: He isn’t overly concerned with the starting lineup, but the veteran coach did feel the need to make changes after GU’s rugged overtime win against North Dakota on Saturday. Few inserted Rui Hachimura and Jacob Larsen for Tillie and Williams.
It certainly seemed to matter to Williams and Tillie.
The two forwards came off the bench to spark 12th-ranked Gonzaga’s 101-71 victory over IUPUI in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“It’s my prerogative,” said Few, who wasn’t pleased with the effort of his two bigs against North Dakota. “It’s what I get to do.”
Williams and Tillie entered near the 16-minute mark of the first half and the Zags (10-2) immediately stretched their lead against the visitors from Indianapolis. Tillie had eight points and Williams seven in a 17-5 run that bumped GU’s lead to 27-14.
Tillie finished with a career-high 27 points in 26 minutes. He was active and was rewarded with numerous trips to the free-throw line. He made all 10 of his foul shots and 8 of 12 from the field, navigating inside against a smaller Jaguars’ frontcourt for an assortment of soft-touch jump hooks, putbacks and layups.
“A little bit, yeah, of course,” said Tillie, when asked if not starting added to his motivation. “It makes want to prove to them I can play, and I can play hard. Now I have to do this every game, not only when I come off the bench.”
Williams had at least three dunks and put up 17 points to go with 14 rebounds.
“I’ve been starting since I was a freshman in high school,” the Memphis native said. “It was awkward at first because I’m used to being warm and not coming in cold. It is what it is. I just have to learn from it and get better.”
The roughest spots from Saturday’s game – turnovers and shaky defense – didn’t totally go away but the Zags’ effort and offensive efficiency was solid. Three Zags hit the floor in pursuit of a loose ball in the first half.
GU overcame 17 turnovers by making 68 percent from the field, the fourth best in Few’s 19 seasons as head coach. Gonzaga’s single-game record is 71.8 percent, set against Saint Mary’s in 1996.
“We had a little better bounce to us, a little better energy,” Few said.
The same could be said of Williams and Tillie.
“When (Tillie) plays aggressive and with energy, and the same with Johnathan, they’re fun to watch and they’re very, very good,” Few said. “When they don’t bring energy, when they don’t bring physicality, when they don’t bring any toughness, we’re not as good and they’re not as fun to watch.”
Larsen and Hachimura made an impact, too. Larsen had nine points, two assists and two boards in 12 minutes. Hachimura added four points and two rebounds.
The foursome was the primary contributors to GU’s 48 paint points and a 38-24 edge in rebounding.
The stat that best reflected the difference between Saturday’s and Monday’s games: GU didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half against UND. The Zags were 25 of 29 at the free-throw line versus the Jaguars (2-8).
“We were way more aggressive,” Few said. “Between (Williams and Tillie), and Rui and J-Lar, we were able to establish ourselves down low and get some things going to the basket, which began to dictate some things in the game.”
Gonzaga led by 16 at half but the Jaguars stayed in it by getting into the lane and finishing for a sizable portion of the second half. The Zags switched to a zone with 7 minutes left, forced a couple of turnovers and missed shots and an 11-point lead reached 20 in a 3-minute span.
“Hopefully we all know we’re not where we need to be right now,” senior guard Silas Melson said. “It’s obvious we have a lot of holes we could fill and places where we could get better.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Follow along with the Zags
Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.