Kyle Wiltjer scored a career-high 45 points to help push the Gonzaga Bulldogs past the Pacific Tigers, 86-74, on Thursday night.
Let's talk about Wiltjer a bunch, because otherwise it is hard to see a lot of positives in the Bulldogs effort, overall, tonight. The Gonzaga offense didn't have a lot going for it otherwise, but when your trump card is a 6'10 forward who likes to go nuts from the three point line, that is the ultimate trump card.
Wiltjer's previous career-high in points was the 32 he dropped against Georgia earlier this season. Against Pacific, he put on a clinic and demonstrated to the limited viewing audience why he has a good shot at securing some time in the NBA in his near future.
Wiltjer's 45 ranks third on GU's single-game list. Most since Jean Claude Lefebvre’s 50 in 1958. Morrison had 44 in 2006 vs. LMU.— Jim Meehan (@SRJimm) February 20, 2015
Wiltjer was 15-of-22 from the floor and hit 7-of-10 from beyond the arc against a Pacific team that had absolutely no answer for him. And it is a good thing Pacific had no answer for them, because Gonzaga's defense didn't have much of an answer for Pacific.
Then again, the Bulldogs theoretically did most things right on defense, or so the stat sheet sort of says. Pacific shot 43.9 percent from the floor, but the long range shots allowed the Tigers to stay in the game. David Taylor hit 5-of-7 and T.J. Wallace hit a couple of wide open threes. Overall, Pacific went 11-of-19 from beyond the arc and gave flashbacks to a recent time when Gonzaga's perimeter defense was as effective as wet rice paper.
To Gonzaga's credit, Pacific hit a lot of wonky shots. But in the NCAA Tournament, teams also hit a lot of wonky shots. The Tigers gave the Bulldogs their all, with four players scoring in double-digits, led by Wallace's 19 points.
Gonzaga was its normal efficient self on offense. The Bulldogs shot 60 percent from the floor and had assists on 20 of their 30 made field goals. Kevin Pangos was limited to four points, but he also only took two shots. Instead, he let Wiltjer do what he needed to do and kept feeding him the ball to the tune of eight assists.
In the end, it was an ugly win, but it was a win. Did I mention that my key to the game was Kyle Wiltjer would need to score 40+ for the Bulldogs to get the victory?