A reporter, quite possibly with the byline above, took an opportunity to sit down in a chair next to Killian Tillie for an interview after a December game, citing “old bones.”
“Yeah,” Tillie smiled, “me, too.”
Tillie’s health has been an on-going topic during his GU career and particularly this season as he deals with the aftermath of October knee surgery and a mid-December ankle sprain.
The 6-foot-10 Frenchman isn’t at full speed, but his on-court performance suggests otherwise. The senior forward delivered 22 points against Portland and 20 versus Pepperdine, influencing two hard-fought victories, particularly Saturday night’s 75-70 decision over the Waves.
Tillie sat out last Monday’s rout of Detroit Mercy, a planned day off, to be better prepared physically for top-ranked Gonzaga’s first two WCC games.
“I needed that rest for sure,” said Tillie, who also sat out the Battle 4 Atlantis opener before returning for the next two tournament games. “I felt like the team needed my intensity and energy.”
The remaining WCC schedule should be more favorable for Tillie. The Zags don’t have any three-game weeks or back-to-back games. They play Thursday and Saturday each week except for a pair of single-game weeks.
Gonzaga does face two quicker turnarounds after Thursday night games, including this Saturday’s 1 p.m. tip against Loyola Marymount and another 1 p.m. tip vs. San Francisco on Feb. 1.
“I swear, he lives in the training room,” junior wing Corey Kispert said of Tillie. “How much he loves the game and how much he loves his team is apparent by how much work he does to get his body right and be able to play every single game, whether it’s an ankle or knee or he’s sick.”
Tillie’s impact is sometimes hard to quantify. He can score, and not just with his smooth 3-point stroke. His back-to-back 20-point games marked the first time since his memorable three-game run at the WCC Tournament as a sophomore when he went for 24, 26 and 22 points, drilling 13 of 14 3-pointers.
He’s a quality passer and can operate in either spot in the high-low game. On average, he commits one turnover roughly every 29 minutes.
“I did some silly passes,” said Tillie, who had three turnovers and four assists on Saturday. “But we had the high-low to Filip (for a layup) and one to Joel for the shot-fake and he made the 3. It (zone defense) doesn’t scare us, but I think we could have done a better job.”
Tillie provides rim protection and is agile enough to switch on screens and cover guards, as he did several times on Pepperdine standout point guard Colbey Ross. At the other end of the floor, Tillie is a dilemma for opposing defenses.
“I’ve said it before, I love playing with him,” said Petrusev, who combined with Tillie for 36 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. “The high-lows we can get and (Pepperdine) was switching his ball screens, because obviously they can’t let him get the open 3s. Once he slides in (to the lane), he has a guard on him, so we try to take advantage of that, too.”
Gonzaga’s defense allowed an average of 60.4 points through the Southern Mississippi game at the Battle 4 Atlantis. That figure is now 68.6. Texas Southern (62) is the only opponent Gonzaga has has held under 70 points in the past 10 games.
The caliber of opponent has increased dramatically, but the Zags’ defensive numbers have slipped. Michigan, Washington and Portland cracked 50% shooting and several foes have stung the Zags with 3-pointers.
“They’re going to bring their best against the No. 1 team in the country,” Petrusev said. “It’s also us. We just have to execute the game plan better and give more effort. Half of those (Pepperdine) shots were uncontested so that’s on us for sure. We have to contest every shot and make them score over us.”
Gonzaga is 60th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings. The Zags were in the mid-20s five weeks ago.
“We’re not doing a good job respecting the plan, the scouting report, and leaving guys that shouldn’t be open open on the 3,” Tillie said. “And then just toughness, getting on loose balls and stuff like that. We can do a big jump defensively.”
Ravet no longer on team
Gonzaga confirmed Sunday that freshman guard Brock Ravet is no longer on the team.
The school announced prior to Gonzaga’s exhibition game versus Lewis-Clark State College on Nov. 1 that Ravet was taking a leave of absence.
Ravet’s locker nameplate was removed a few weeks ago.
“Brock has made a personal decision to no longer be with the team,” according to an athletic department statement.
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