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Gonzaga v. USF Game Preview

Killian Tillie’s absence was felt in a closely fought battle during the first matchup between these teams. Will he be available for Round 2?

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs welcome Todd Golden’s USF Dons to Spokane on Thursday night for what should be another tough battle.

Drew Timme stepped up in a big way during the first matchup in San Francisco at the beginning of the month, deputizing for Killian Tillie who missed the game after spraining the ankle which also kept him out last weekend against Pepperdine. The Dons pushed Gonzaga to the brink during Round I, taking an 8-point lead into halftime, and also led with under two minutes to play before a timely three from Corey Kispert and a big defense stop by Drew Timme allowed Gonzaga to escape with a W.

Meet the opponent

San Francisco Dons, 17-10, KenPom #90

The Dons have found consistency to be hard to come by during WCC play, splitting their games against BYU but also suffering defeats to Portland and Pacific. Losers of three of their last four games, Todd Golden needs his team to recapture the spirit and energy they displayed in the losing effort against Gonzaga, which incidentally ignited USF’s three-game losing streak.

What to watch out for

Capitalizing on USF’s three-point defense

The Dons remain one of the worst teams in the country in opponent’s three point-field goal percentage. The Zags shot 80% from the arc during the first contest between the teams, but that was only on 4-5 shooting. USF played aggressive perimeter defense, but open looks will be available if the Zags can make the extra pass and avoid the turnovers that plagued them at War Memorial Gymnasium.

The Frontcourt Battle

Filip Petrusev and Drew Timme feasted on USF’s interior defense with their high-low play. The Dons struggled so much with defending Petrusev and Timme that both of their starting big men—Jimbo Lull and Josh Kunen—fouled out. While they battled foul trouble of their own, Petrusev notched a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Timme saved the day for Gonzaga with his play at both ends of the floor. If Tillie misses this game after being a game-time scratch at Pepperdine on Saturday due to an aggravation of his ankle, the Zags will need a repeat performance from those two. With BYU looming on Saturday, Tillie’s status is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I’m inclined to let him sit this one out for some extra recovery time and save him for the Cougars, but my guess is that he plays.

Bounce back efforts on the wings

USF successfully shackled Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder earlier this month, and Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert didn’t come alive until the second half. Woolridge is also coming off an uneven performance at Pepperdine, so a strong start to this game could be beneficial for his confidence as the Zags need him to play aggressively and decisively against the pressure defense that USF is sure to implement. The bigs shouldn’t have to carry this team, and it would be nice to give them a break via a dominant performance from the guards.