Killian Tillie led all scorers with 26 points (10-11 FG, 5-5 3PT) on his 20th birthday, and Rui Hachimura chipped in 17 points off the bench. Johnathan Williams picked up another double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Zach Norvell also reached double figures with 14 points. Josh Perkins facilitated the scoring with 8 assists and a second-half dunk (near-dunk?).
The Zags certainly made up for their less-than-stellar first half performance against LMU in the quarterfinals with a nearly perfect opening half of basketball against USF. The trio of Tillie, Norvell, and Hachimura combined for 39 of Gonzaga’s 48 first-half points
On his birthday, Tillie set the tone for the evening by opening the scoring with a difficult touch alley-oop that he converted for an and-one. He wasn’t done there, however, as he underscored his candidacy for WCC Tournament MVP with another perfect performance from the three-point line with a 3-3 line in the first half and 5-5 overall. If Tillie’s not on the inside track to win the Tournament MVP award, then the conference should probably just be disbanded.
To their credit, the Dons weren’t cowed by Gonzaga’s offensive master class. USF exchanged a flurry of baskets with Gonzaga early in the game and embraced the fast tempo life it found itself in. That pace favored Gonzaga and its depth of talent, however, and it didn’t take long for USF to begin wilting under Gonzaga’s intense pressure on both ends of the floor.
A quick 10-0 run midway through the first half, highlighted by a nuclear left-handed dunk from Hachimura, stretched Gonzaga’s lead to 17 points midway through the half. It was truly the full Rui experience in the first half, as he bullied USF from inside and out, while the poor Dons wondered what they could do to stop the onslaught. The answer, it turns out, was nothing.
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Zach Norvell showed off his scoring chops, shooting 4-6 from the three-point line in the first half in a bid to convince us that he can put the ball in the basket during both halves. If he does it seven more times this season, I’ll make a pinky promise to retire that narrative.
I haven’t even mentioned the defense, but believe me when I say that Gonzaga clamped down after the first five minutes of the game. All of that added up to a nearly flawless first half from Gonzaga, and you have to wonder what USF coach Kyle Smith could say to his players during the break to salve their wounds (For starters, I would have suggested getting out of Rui’s way if he’s barreling down the lane in transition and not letting Tillie touch the ball) as they faced a 48-27 deficit.
Not even the All-WCC name team of Frankie Ferrari and Souley Boum could crack the code in the second half. Tillie nearly completed a perfect night from the field, finally misfiring on his 10th shot of the night, before exiting for good with about eight minutes left to play after making his fifth three-pointer of the evening.
The heavy contingent of Gonzaga fans in the arena were able to see Jeremy Jones, Jacob Larsen, and Jesse Wade on the floor for an extended run to close the game, and the Zags were happy to cruise into yet another WCC Final, a game they still haven’t missed in the Mark Few era.