It felt like a rough week for Gonzaga fans, and even harder on some players. Oumar Ballo was declared an academic redshirt on Monday, Killian Tillie was ruled out of the exhibition on Thursday, and then Brock Ravet left the program for personal reasons on Friday. So it was nice to just watch a basketball game and forget about everything else for a couple hours.
Gonzaga came out and thwarted Lewis-Clark State College, 116-61, in their exhibition. Freshman Anton Watson led all scorers with 28 points on 12-for-13 shooting. Filip Petrusev added 22 and Drew Timme poured in 18 points on 9-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds and four blocks. His footwork inside is a thing of beauty. The Bulldogs owned a 74-12 advantage in the paint.
Mark Few went with a seven-man rotation for the entirety of the first half, seemingly the same one he used against Michigan State. Ryan Woolridge started alongside Admon Gilder and Corey Kispert while Anton Watson and Petrusev started up front. Drew Timme and Joel Ayayi filled the two bench spots. Martynas Arlauskas and Pavel Zakharov got some run in the final 10 minutes of the game. Will Graves, the son of former Gonzaga Women’s coach Kelly Graves, is a walk-on addition to the team.
After a little back-and-forth, the Zags went to their 1-2-2 press with Watson manning the head. They forced a dozen turnovers and went on an 20-0 run in less than four minutes. Watson had 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, two rebounds, three assists and three steals in the first 9:30 of the game. He never let up. All seven Zags made at least two field goals in the first half. All seven Zags recorded at least one steal and one assist in the first half. And those seven Zags shot 73.7 percent as a team, made 16 consecutive shots inside the arc, and took a 65-29 lead into the break.
Ryan Woolridge acclimated himself nicely, leading the break and running the offense smoothly. He finished with 11 points, three assists and three steals. Both he and Admon Gilder showed how good they can be defensively on the perimeter as well. It was a challenge for any Warrior to get into the paint. They turned the ball over 24 times.
Another good sign was Joel Ayayi taking a step forward in his development. He scored 12 points, hit a couple threes, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists and nabbed four steals. Impressive stat-stuffing performance from the redshirt sophomore.
Kispert struggled a bit from the field (2-for-7 from deep), and will need to find consistency at some point, but this team has plenty of offensive fire power to make up for an average shooting performance. It’s only an exhibition, but if you watched this game, and believe the reports from the Michigan State scrimmage, it’s clear this team has the makings of something pretty darn good. Add Killian Tillie to the mix and now you’re cooking with fire.
The regular season begins Tuesday night at 5 pm against Alabama State.