Kyle Wiltjer's 19 point performance against San Francisco was a key in the Zags avoiding the upset bug on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals. It did not come without some bumps however as Wiltjer got a bloody lip, popped his shoulder, and injured his hip all in the course of action at the Orleans Arena. The latter injury was the scariest as Wiltjer went down awkwardly late in the game and very gingerly limped off the court.
After the game, Mark Few said Wiltjer was incredibly sore and was unable to return to the game as he couldn't get into his stance in the tunnel. The Bulldogs survived the Dons with an 81-72 victory thanks in large part to the work Wiltjer did earlier in the game. The power forward from Oregon has officially been ruled questionable for tonight's semifinals matchup against Pepperdine and will be evaluated all the way up until gametime.
Ideally, it would be great to say that the Zags don't need Wiltjer this evening but as Peter mentioned in his game preview, Pepperdine has been a major challenge for the Zags this season given their slow-down tempo approach. Mark Few's club escaped Malibu with a two-point win in January and scored just 56 points in thier second matchup with the Waves which was good enough for an 8 point win.
Wiltjer scored 37 points combined in the two contests so he has been a key offensive force against the Waves and his services are particularly impactful against a team like Pepperdine that loves to force teams into half court sets. Wiltjer's versatility makes him a half court nightmare for opposing teams so holding him out tonight is not a minor decision.
This decision is further compounded when you consider that Zags are not all that deep in the post anymore. Angel Nunez hasn't really played meaningful basketball in weeks which leaves just Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis - both of which have had fits of foul issues this year - to police the low post for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga would likely employ the four-guard lineup in a lot of stretches rather than play Nunez for extended minutes but the Zags reserve guards have also struggled with consistency this season.
I would expect to see Wiltjer give it a go tonight against Pepperdine but play limited minutes. Kyle Dranginis will likely be the beneficiary of increased minutes tonight but Wiltjer's injury further emphasizes the point that this team needs to figure out a way to get off to a fast start. Letting the Waves linger around with a wounded Wiltjer could be the recipe for a major upset tonight at the Orleans Arena.