After steamrolling through the early part of the West Coast Conference schedule, Gonzaga was bound to face some adversity and a stiff challenge.
The latest hurdle came Saturday when the No. 2 Bulldogs didn’t play particularly well and once again were without forward Killian Tillie. However, coach Mark Few’s crew gutted out an 89-77 win at Pepperdine.
Gonzaga (26-1, 12-0 WCC) has won 18 consecutive games and 39 regular-season conference games in a row, the longest streak of its kind in the nation. The Bulldogs will shoot for 19 and 40 on Thursday in Spokane, Wash., against San Francisco.
While Few said he wasn’t pleased about how his team played, he welcomed the test from the Waves.
“It’s a good type of game going into March because we weren’t playing great,” Few told the Spokesman-Review. “We were a little flustered and had a lot of adversity, starting with Killian not being able to play, guys in foul trouble, mismatched lineups and a hot guard (Colbey Ross) going against us.”
Few won’t be surprised if the Dons offer a similar challenge.
San Francisco (17-10, 6-6) snapped a three-game skid by beating Santa Clara last week. Jamaree Bouyea led the Dons with 17 points while Jimbo Lull recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The Dons have not beaten the Bulldogs since 2012, a span of 17 games. One of those contests was Feb. 1, and you can be sure the Dons have Gonzaga’s full attention after the Bulldogs escaped with an 83-79 win.
The Dons had led by one with two minutes to go.
“This loss really hurts, just because I felt like we could have won,” San Francisco guard Jordan Ratinho said after the game. “We were right there.”
Five Dons scored in double figures. San Francisco’s defense was stellar in the first half, creating eight turnovers and building a 12-point lead.
“I thought in the first half, we executed the game plan as perfectly as you could ask, and that’s why we’re up by eight,” Dons coach Todd Golden said.
Tillie played and proved why his presence is needed, even on a team as loaded as Gonzaga. But Tillie’s status for Thursday is uncertain. While he’s been in and out of Few’s lineup all year because of injuries, freshman Drew Timme has stepped up and played like a seasoned veteran.
Timme (10.3 points per game) is one of seven Bulldogs averaging in double figures. More important, he has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates, plus the respect from his opponents.
“I’m just really confident in the offense now, no more second-guessing as much,” Timme told the Spokesman-Review. “Just letting myself play. Everything is becoming more second nature.”
Timme has been a perfect complement to Filip Petrusev, who leads the team in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounds (8.0 per game). Timme has become an adept defender, as well. He leads the team in blocks with 27, just ahead of Petrusev’s 25.
“The coaches have really challenged me and really helped me with my technique and footwork,” Timme said. “I feel like I’m a lot better defender, especially when I switch onto guards.”
–Field Level Media