LAS VEGAS – West Coast Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player honors returned to Gonzaga – and France – Tuesday night at the Orleans Arena.
Two years after Killian Tillie rode a few scorching 3-point-shooting nights to the award given to the top individual player at the conference tournament, countryman Joel Ayayi was presented with a metallic silver basketball.
Now there’s a WCC MVP trophy residing in three French cities: Tillie’s hometown of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Ayayi’s hometown of Bordeaux and Ronny Turiaf’s hometown of Fort de France, Martinique. Turiaf was the WCC MVP recipient after leading the Bulldogs to a conference tournament title in 2004.
“It’s great, I’m really happy. Like I said, I didn’t really think about it before coming here,” Ayayi said. “It just happened and you’ve just got to embrace it and not think about it too much, because we’ve got a pretty big game next (week).”
Ayayi, who matched Drew Timme with a team-high 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds in an 84-66 win over Saint Mary’s, was one of three GU players named to the WCC’s All-Tournament Team.
Timme, who scored 26 points in two games on 11-of-13 shooting, and forward Filip Petrusev, who had 24 points and 19 rebounds, also were all-tournament selections, along with Saint Mary’s guard Jordan Ford and Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross. Ford scored 88 points in three games, while Ross scored 61 in two.
During Gonzaga’s two-day visit to Vegas, Ayayi scored 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds. The sophomore guard scored 12 of his 14 points Monday in the second half and had eight of GU’s points during a 9-3 run to close the game.
“It’s huge. You know, he’s my little brother,” Tillie said of Ayayi. “I saw him improve for his two years he’s been here and stepping up at this time is huge for us and for him, and I’m so happy he got the MVP this year.
“We’ve got great players from France … and Gonzaga.”
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