Gonzaga Pulls Away Lately to Beat USF in WCC Semifinals

Gonzaga Pulls Away Lately to Beat USF in WCC Semifinals


Gonzaga Pulls Away Lately to Beat USF in WCC Semifinals

On Monday night, Gonzaga pulled away late to defeat USF in the West Coast Conference semifinals. With their 24th consecutive appearance in the WCC championship game under coach Mark Few, Gonzaga advances to its 24th consecutive title game.

Gonzaga consistently pushed the ball into the paint, outpacing San Francisco by 24 points. Although San Francisco made some attempts to come back, Gonzaga kept finding open shots and secured a comfortable victory.

Killian Tillie stepped up in the clutch

Killian Tillie had his most accurate shooting night of the tournament, hitting 10-of-11 shots to lead Gonzaga to an 88-60 victory against San Francisco in the WCC semifinals Monday night. With their 29-4 record, Gonzaga now advances to face BYU for the title on Tuesday - a game they have won 21 consecutive times.

Tillie was the star of this win, leading USF's second-half comeback as they earned a win that will send the Zags back into the NCAA Tournament for the 20th time under Mark Few. He scored 26 points while hitting all five of his three-point attempts in the first half and completed an incredible evening from the field with five more shots before leaving in the closing minutes.

He also contributed eight assists, helping Gonzaga control the tempo in a game that started with San Francisco (21-15) holding an early 17-9 lead. But after they tied it at 47 with under 14 minutes remaining, Tillie's steal and layup off of a dribble move gave Gonzaga the edge again and ultimately sealed their win.

An impressive season saw the Zags lose four first-team All-WCC players, yet remained undefeated at home to remain in contention for a top seed with an unbeaten home record. They prevailed 84-66 against Saint Mary's in the league championship game to avenge last year's loss and secure an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

In the opening period, the Zags' man-to-man defense effectively shut out Ratinho and Lull for all their points. Doing so by keeping the ball down low and limiting them to just two 3-pointers, they imposed their will upon an already overwhelmed Dons team.

San Francisco never had a chance to catch up to Gonzaga during this contest. The Dons had their first lead at halftime, but an 8-0 Gonzaga run early in the second half completely turned the tide.

After Charles Minlend hit a three-pointer to give the Dons a 59-58 lead with 15:10 remaining, Gonzaga scored eight of the next 10 points to extend their lead to 66-56. However, Minlend was whistled for his fifth foul with 2:20 remaining and sophomore guard Khalil Shabazz hit a running three from behind the arc for one last chance at redemption: it was within one possession once more!

The Zags’ backcourt feasted on USF’s man-to-man defense

Gonzaga's backcourt turned back USF's man-to-man defense on Monday afternoon, giving them a 79-64 victory in a WCC semifinal. With this win, the Zags advance to Tuesday's championship game against Portland at 1 p.m.

The Bulls (13-13, 10-9 WCC) have had difficulty stopping many ball handlers this season. Partly due to their preference for man-to-man coverage, but also because they lack enough players in their backcourt to double-team defenders on every pass.

That's one major reason why the Bulls haven't been able to apply much defensive pressure on the ball in recent games. That isn't to say they haven't defended it well - USF boasts plenty of talented linebackers - but they just can't seem to apply enough pressure on the handler and when they do, their man-to-man coverage isn't nearly as effective.

Gonzaga has employed its wingmen to get into the paint and make plays inside against USF, taking advantage of their length and athleticism as well as superior footwork. They can do so because they possess good footwork and agility on the move.

This gives them the flexibility to set up different looks, especially in pick-and-pop scenarios. From there, they can get the ball up their shooters while also using their defenders to create turnovers and break down defenses.

However, the Zags' defense must also be tough and physical. They must be able to withstand the physicality of a matchup against a much bigger and stronger team than they are.

They must also be able to guard the ball, especially during pick-and-pop situations. To achieve this goal, apply back court pressure and have two or three defenders on the ball handler at all times.

This can help them keep opponents away from the outside shot and give themselves more time to set up for inside shots. Furthermore, offensive rebounds give teams an edge that they can use as chances for more open shots; the more offensive rebounds a team receives, the greater its chances are at winning the game.

The Zags’ defense stymied USF’s comeback

Gonzaga had to fight hard to hold USF to its lowest point total since 2012-13 season. But their defense did an outstanding job of keeping any momentum the Tigers might have gained by scoring the first eight points of the game.

That is why, when Georgia Tech's offense started to come alive late in the first half, they were still able to hold on for a 69-65 victory. Their defensive rotation has been so effective that they've held opponents below their scoring average in 20 games - including five straight.

The Zags were challenged to play tough, high-pressure defense against a formidable offensive team, yet they also needed to get stops on the perimeter. Senior Drew Timme stood out in particular down low.

But he also made several costly errors. Firstly, he wasn't getting open on the perimeter and didn't close out well to a three-point shooter. While he held up well to some shots from USF and blocked some, his ability to contest most of their shots left him short.

Another area of weakness was ball screen defense. GU had difficulty communicating effectively on this part of the floor and Tennessee caught them in several key moments.

On one possession, Nembhard faked a down screen and then flared to the corner before rolling to the basket. That left Ayayi without space to shoot, so he whipped a pass to Oumar Ballo for an easy 3.

Later in the possession, Nembhard faked eagle-eyes on a pass from Hickman and then stepped aside for Hickman to set a ball screen for Zakai Zeigler at the top of the key.

The Zags attempted to play this at PnR's level, but that led to several easy short roll reads which the Vols quickly tagged.

Similarly, the Vols utilized a lot of motion offense with wide pindowns and staggered screens to create advantages in the middle of the field. This gave them multiple open looks from mid-range range and allowed them to dominate inside and out against the Bulldogs.

The Zags’ offense came alive in the second half

On Monday night, Gonzaga pulled away late to defeat USF 81-71 in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. Now 25-3 overall and one win away from their ninth title in 10 years, Gonzaga will take on Saint Mary's on Tuesday for a share of the championship trophy.

Gonzaga's defense and strong shooting enabled them to keep USF (23-7) from making any serious inroads into the second half. The Zags boasted a 15-3 advantage in points off turnovers, going 11 for 13 from the foul line.

In the second half, Georgia's offense came alive and helped them extend their lead to 20 points early in the third quarter. Timme and Holmgren worked tirelessly to get shots off from outside, giving the Zags a commanding 20-point cushion heading into the fourth.

Gonzaga had an early lead, but USF battled back into the game during the first half. They cut a nine-point deficit down to four with just under six minutes remaining after scoring eight points on their own during that stretch.

However, Gonzaga's defense held strong for 6:32 more and scored 17 of the game's next 19 points.

Gonzaga shot 49% from the field and made five of its eight three-point attempts during that stretch, giving them a formidable defense against 3-point shots that made them hard to beat on that end of the floor.

Once the game took a turn for the Zags, it only took 4:49 for them to pull away from the Gaels. That's an incredibly long time without a made field goal, but fortunately for them, neither team was particularly accurate at that end of the court in the opening half.

Gonzaga's slim lead was finally secured with 3:08 left on the clock when Tass dunk gave them a 45-42 advantage. From there on out, however, the Gaels could find no momentum as Gonzaga's defense clamped down and held them to just four points over the next 9:22 minutes.

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