BOISE – Just before tipoff between Gonzaga and Florida State on Thursday, Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was forced into a change that caught all of Gonzaga’s fan base off guard.
Few inserted backup forward Rui Hachimura into the starting lineup in place of normal starter Killian Tillie, who was on the bench dressed in warm-up gear.
Tillie stayed on the bench all game with an injury to his right hip sustained on Tuesday at practice. Tillie said he ran into a teammate and felt pain in his hip immediately.
Tillie worked with a trainer during the week and by Thursday the big man was sure his hip had healed enough to play against the Seminoles. But during warm ups Tillie felt the pain again after going up for a dunk.
“I was doing good the first five minutes of warm ups and then on the drive it just got worse – way worse,” Tillie said.
Shortly after the trip to the locker room, Tillie told Few he couldn’t play.
“It’s kind of your worst nightmare as a coach,” Few said. “When we got the news on Killian, we knew it was going to be more difficult.”
The Zags were missing Tillie on the offensive side all night. They struggled getting makes over FSU’s long bigs inside, especially against 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje and fellow 7-footer Ike Obiagu.
Hachimura finished with a team-high 16 points and nine rebounds while filling in for Tillie, including six makes at the rim. Most of his shots were made off drives inside during a few runs that the Zags found open lanes inside.
“We missed a key person on our team,” forward Johnathan Williams said. “We missed some shots on the rim and that’s on us. We’ll learn from that and grow from that.”
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