No. 8 Gonzaga a tough test for Texas A&M

NCAA Basketball
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The scary thing about the Gonzaga Bulldogs is not that they have outscored their first three opponents by a combined total of 112 points.

Or that they’re shooting 59 percent from the field, including 44 percent from 3-point range. Or that their defense is holding opponents to under 41 percent from the field. Or that they’re out-rebounding opponents by 18 per game.

What’s really keeping opposing coaches awake at night is how much better the Bulldogs will be when their best player returning from last season, Killian Tillie, is healthy after October knee surgery.

Tillie is not expected be ready for Friday night’s clash between the eighth-ranked Bulldogs and Texas A&M in College Station, but Aggies head coach Buzz Williams knows he has plenty to worry about.

Williams is in his first season at the helm of the Aggies. His first two games have led to uninspiring wins against Louisiana-Monroe and Northwestern Louisiana State.

Jay Jay Chandler (14.0 points per game) and Savion Flagg (13.0) have sparked the Aggies to wins in those first two games.

While Williams knows his team faces a stiff challenge against the Bulldogs, many of his players are not aware of what awaits.

“A portion of our team is unaware of what Gonzaga is,” Williams said Wednesday. “They don’t know they played in the Elite Eight last season. They don’t know they played in the Final Four in 2015. They don’t know they’ve been to the NCAA Tournament 21 straight years.”

Williams figures the Aggies will learn pretty quickly just who the Bulldogs are and how well they can play. They play fast, are efficient on offense and are dominating the boards while playing just seven players, without Tillie, Williams said.

“I think they (Gonzaga) are good enough to win a national championship,” Williams said.

Through three games, Gonzaga is averaging a staggering 100.7 points per game. The starting frontcourt of Filip Petrusev and Corey Kispert averages nearly 40 points per game, while the starting backcourt of Admon Gilder, Anton Watson and Ryan Woolridge is scoring 33 points per game.

Drew Timme comes off the bench and adds another 14.0 ppg.

Gonzaga will only get better when Tillie returns, but when that will happen is unclear. Few would only say the 6-foot-10 senior will play when he’s ready to play.

One player who will be ready to face the Aggies is Gilder, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, who helped the Aggies earn Sweet 16 berths in 2016 and 2018.

“Those are my brothers,” Gilder told KREM-TV in Spokane. “I FaceTime almost every week. They’re just looking forward to it and being able to see me because we created a bond when I was there. At the end of the day, we’re going to be brothers for life,” added Gilder, a two-year starter for the Aggies who averaged 12.3 points a game as a junior.

Gilder’s not alone as the Bulldogs travel to Texas.

Woolridge and Timme are from Texas and both are looking forward to playing in the Lone Star State.

“I’ll probably be really, really excited to play,” Woolridge said. “Just to be back home with all the people and all the friends and family that are there.”

“I can’t wait,” said Drew. “I know all my family and friends are coming down so it’s going to be great to play in front of them again. I know we got Admon and Ryan too so it might end up being a bit of a home game for us.”

–Field Level Media

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