The Gonzaga-College of Idaho game was an exhibition contest, so the Zags’ Killian Tillie took it as an opportunity to exhibit his resourceful scoring ability.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore forward didn’t miss a shot while torching the Coyotes for 28 points in a 96-67 rout Saturday in front of a full house of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The game doesn’t count on either team’s record or stats, but Tillie still had an abundance of motivation.
He didn’t play well in Gonzaga’s recent scrimmage against Texas A&M and he wasn’t happy with his performance in practices leading up to Saturday.
“He was spectacular,” coach Mark Few said. “It was a great recovery and response by him because he played very poorly in the scrimmage and I probably wasn’t very nice to him.”
One of the offseason mysteries was predicting GU’s starting five. It seemed like four spots were locked up by Johnathan Williams, Silas Melson, Josh Perkins and Tillie. It turned out that wasn’t the case as Williams, Melson and Perkins were joined by sophomore Rui Hachimura and freshman wing Corey Kispert.
“I knew I wasn’t starting because of the last practices and everything,” Tillie said. “That was a reason for me to step up and bring my energy.”
He brought a lot more than that. Tillie made all 11 of his field-goal attempts, including three 3-pointers. He was 3 of 3 from the free-throw line en route to 28 points in 22 minutes.
Tillie took over after entering near the 15-minute mark of the first half. He drove and finished inside, and followed that up with the Zags’ first 3-pointer. He showed off his versatility, scoring from the perimeter, off the bounce and with midrange jumpers. He poured in 20 points in 15 first-half minutes.
“This summer was a good summer for me,” said Tillie, whose season high last year was 12 points. “I worked a lot on my shot, 3s, midrange, drives left and right.”
Asked if he was surprised by Saturday’s showing, Tillie said, “No, I worked a lot this summer. I just transferred it into the game.”
Said Williams, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks: “That was new to me. He was awesome. We just need him to do that every single night. It’ll relieve a lot of pressure on me and Perk and Silas. When he plays that well, it just opens up the court for everybody else.”
The Yotes struggled on offense against Gonzaga’s length and athleticism. College of Idaho made just two of its first 14 attempts.
Gonzaga’s lead reached double digits, 16-5, on the first of Tillie’s three 3-pointers. The Yotes were stuck on five points for more than 3 minutes and they stayed at seven points for 2 1/2 minutes.
“It started on defense. The offense will take care of itself,” GU redshirt freshman guard Zach Norvell Jr. said. “We have a lot of talented guys, a lot of guys that can score. I thought we brought it on the defensive end.”
That was the case for most of the first half, but the Zags slipped in the final 6:30 when the Yotes made four 3-pointers. That burst kept Gonzaga from opening up a bigger lead than its 46-31 halftime edge.
The Zags misfired on 3-pointers and made nearly everything inside of the arc in the first 20 minutes. They settled too often against Yotes’ defenses that ranged from man-to-man to zone to trapping out front. GU was just 4 of 17 on 3s but made 15 of 19 of its other field-goal attempts.
Tillie kept on making every shot he attempted and Williams had a streak of 10 consecutive Gonzaga points as the Zags stretched their lead to 70-44. Gonzaga led by as many as 33.
College of Idaho, which led for a good portion before falling to Boise State 74-69 Thursday in an exhibition game, was led by Aziz Leeks’ 11 points and Tanner Kramer’s 10.
Gonzaga opens the season against Texas Southern at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Friday.
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