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Gonzaga Basketball
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

TV Take: ESPN2 crew kept eyes glued on Gonzaga forward combo of Killian Tillie, Johnathan Williams

UPDATED: Sun., March 4, 2018

There was no way to watch Gonzaga’s quarterfinal win over Loyola Marymount in the West Coast Conference Tournament on Saturday and not notice the sponsor’s name.

The Gorilla Glue logo was right below the WCC’s at center court.

But the conference is missing a couple of perfect fits in the marketing department.

Instead of sticking with a glue company, why doesn’t the WCC hook up with Unisom or Tic Tacs? Both would seem appropriate after a couple of hours slogging through Gonzaga’s 12th consecutive win, this one 83-69 over the Lions.

What they saw …

Midway through the first half, ESPN2 analyst Caron Butler tried to sell the viewers on the notion that the Orleans Arena atmosphere was electric.

But those watching at home knew better. The only time the noise level seemed to rise above a faint buzz was when one of the overzealous officiating crew made a questionable call against the seemingly hometown Zags.

Or maybe when Killian Tillie, Johnathan Williams or Loyola’s James Batemon touched the ball – in the second half.

The first 20 minutes may have been as bad a half as Gonzaga has played this season, but making it even worse, the action (or lack thereof) was enough to induce drowsiness.

When play-by-play announcer Eric Rothman matter-of-factly informed us after less than 9 minutes of play there had just been “another Gonzaga turnover; that’s number seven,” it was obvious the top-seeded Zags (28-4) were not on the top of their game.

And they never really got there, done in by their carelessness (14 turnovers overall) and inability to control Batemon, who scored 27 points, without fouling; the junior shot 11 free throws alone.

But, thanks to Tillie and Williams (a combined 17 of 23 from the field), the seventh-ranked Bulldogs eventually advanced to Monday night’s semifinal matchup with San Francisco, an overtime winner over Pacific earlier in the day.

And the duo, with Tillie firing away from the outside (he was 5 of 5 beyond the arc) and Williams throwing down from inside, gave Butler something to marvel over.

When the two combined for a 3-pointer late in the first half – Williams’ shot was blocked, but he stayed with it and found Tillie at the arc – Butler used one of his favorite phrases to describe it.

“That’s winning basketball right there,” he said.

When Williams wound up for a rim-rattling dunk early in the second half off Zach Norvell’s only assist of the game, Butler interjected, “Watch your head,” even before Williams left the ground.

What we saw …

The game may have been boring in the opening half, which Gonzaga led just 29-28, but the second half was interminably elongated by the way it was called.

“We’ve gotten a little whistle-happy in the second half,” was the way Rothman described it, noting that the Lions, who finish their season 11-20, had seven team fouls in the first 6 minutes after intermission.

Gonzaga wasn’t all that far behind as Mike Greenstein, Ken Ditty and especially Klaus Endrissat took turns calling seemingly every ticky-tack touch. Only one player fouled out, Loyola’s Mattias Markusson, but another Lion finished with four, as did three Bulldogs: Silas Melson, Norvell and Rui Hachimura.

Gonzaga shot 17 free throws in a second half that seemed to stretch late into the Las Vegas night. Maybe the whistles were necessary to wake everyone up after a first half in which Gonzaga shot 44 percent, LMU 33 percent.

The Zags trailed 15-13 with a little less than 7 minutes left when Gonzaga coach Mark Few inserted a jumbo lineup, with Williams (6-foot-9), Tillie (6-10), Hachimura (6-8), Corey Kispert (6-6) and Melson (6-4) playing together.

They stayed together until the final half-minute of the first half and helped the Zags lead at intermission.

It was an unusual group that hasn’t played together all that much this season, seemingly inserted in an attempt at injecting some energy into the attack. Though neither Rothman nor Butler seemed to notice.

Maybe, like many folks watching, they were dozing off.

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