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Analysis: Michigan thumps weary Gonzaga 82-64 to claim Battle 4 Atlantis championship

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 29, 2019

Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie has the ball knocked out of his hands in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game against Michigan on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, in Paradise Island, Bahamas. (Torrey Vail / For The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Killian Tillie has the ball knocked out of his hands in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game against Michigan on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, in Paradise Island, Bahamas. (Torrey Vail / For The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga, playing its third game in less than three days, ran into the wrong opponent in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.

Michigan completed a convincing three-game performance, outplaying the eighth-ranked Zags in every facet for an 82-64 victory Friday in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Michigan (7-0) handled Iowa State 83-76, led No. 6 North Carolina by as many as 19 points in a 73-64 victory and dominated the Zags (8-1). The Wolverines, who received votes in last week’s AP poll, could vault into the top 10 on Monday. The previous two Battle 4 Atlantis champions – Villanova two years ago and Virginia last season – went on to win NCAA titles.

Gonzaga, reduced to a seven-man rotation with freshman forward Anton Watson (ankle) missing his second straight game, often looked a step slow, especially on defense trying to contain dribble penetration and close out on 3-point shooters.

Michigan’s balanced offense and crisp execution resulted in quality shots. Point guard Zavier Simpson had 13 points and 13 assists.

Center Jon Teske dominated inside with 19 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Forward Isaiah Livers made five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 21 points.

Sophomore forward Filip Petrusev hit three jumpers as Gonzaga jumped in front 12-7. The momentum didn’t last as Michigan began to take control with a 16-4 run midway through the first half.

Gonzaga’s offense sputtered after Petrusev’s early success from the perimeter. The Zags scored just four points in the paint in the first half. Guards and forwards struggled to finish against Michigan’s length, particularly the 7-foot-1 Teske.

In one sequence, Petrusev turned the ball over against Teske on an isolation play. At the other end, Teske dropped a baby hook over Petrusev, putting Michigan up 32-23.

Teske sandwiched two putback baskets around Killian Tillie’s jump hook, giving Michigan a 36-25 lead at half. Gonzaga made just 32.3% of its first-half shot attempts.

“They run some great stuff,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few told the Detroit News. “They’re very physical and we had some problems with their physicality on both ends. They screened us hard and posted on both ends.

“Their physicality on the defensive end, we missed a lot of shots around the rim that we’ve delivered on so far this year. (Teske) did a great job of protecting the rim. We wouldn’t score over the top of him and that was a big part of the game.”

The Zags made things interesting early in the second half by scoring the first eight points to cut Michigan’s lead to 36-33. Admon Gilder’s 3-pointer trimmed the margin to two.

Michigan took off again with a 21-4 spurt. The Wolverines scored inside on Teske’s dunk and 6-9 forward Franz Wagner’s silky drives. They scored beyond the arc on 3-pointers by Simpson, Livers and David DeJulius, and Livers mixed in a midrange jumper.

Gonzaga switched to a 2-3 zone but immediately lost track of DeJulius, who buried another 3.

The Zags found their offensive footing and started to have some success in the paint. A string of inside baskets and 3s by Tillie and Corey Kispert trimmed Michigan’s lead to 65-54 with 6:30 remaining.

The teams traded field goals before Livers connected on two 3-pointers and Eli Brooks added another, stretching the Wolverines’ lead to 19.

Tillie, who sat out Wednesday’s opener with swelling in his surgically repaired knee, made two 3s and 9 of 14 shots en route to a team-high 20 points. He was the only Zag to make at least 50% of his shots and only one to reach double figures.

Joel Ayayi, Drew Timme and Petrusev all finished with nine points. Petrusev was 4 of 16 from the field.

Gonzaga was accurate from distance – 6 of 12 3-pointers – but the Wolverines were well aware of Kispert’s 12-of-16 effort in the first two games. The junior wing was 1 of 3 on 3s and scored six points.

“I learned that I’m confident in who we are as a group and as a staff,” first-year Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said in an ESPN interview. “We’re a connected group.”

Michigan hit 54% of its shots, including 52% (12 of 23) on 3-pointers.

The Zags made 40% of shots from the field – they were limited to 39% in Thursday’s defensive-minded win over Oregon – and just 6 of 13 free throws.

Petrusev named to all-tournament team

Gonzaga’s sophomore forward was named to the Battle 4 Atlantis all-tournament team, joining Michigan’s Jon Teske (MVP) and Isaiah Livers, Oregon’s Payton Pritchard and Seton Hall’s Myles Powell.

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