In the first game Killian Tillie and Joel Ayayi came up big in the second half to lead Gonzaga to an 81-77 win over a determined San Francisco squad. Ayayi scored 12 of his 14 points and grabbed eight of his nine rebounds after the halftime break. Tillie, who led the Bulldogs with 19 points and 10 rebounds, connected on two free throws with five seconds remaining to ice the game. Tillie scored seven straight Gonzaga points midway through the second half to help keep his team in the lead. His layup gave the Zags a 64-63 lead. Then after a Jimbo Lull score for USF, Tillie hit a three-pointer from the corner for a 67-65 Gonzaga lead. USF tied the game at 68 but Ayayi hit two straight jumpers to give Gonzaga some breathing room. Khalil Shabazz had a chance to tie it for USF on a 3-point attempt with 22 seconds left but the shot didn’t fall.
San Francisco stayed close with Gonzaga throughout the first half. The Zags went out to a 23-13 lead on a Drew Timme (9 points) layup. The Dons came back and tied the game at 25 on a 3-pointer from 6-9 Remu Raitanen, a senior from Finland. Raitanen brought USF to within two points at 34-32 on another 3-pointer, but Gonzaga, helped by 14 first half points from 6-3 Ryan Woolridge took a 40-35 lead into halftime. Tillie added eight points and eight rebounds for the Zags. Raitanen scored nine points on 3-of-4 from deep and 6-4 Charles Minlend also added nine points.
Neither team shot well from distance with Gonzaga connecting on 3-of-12 while San Francisco was 6-of-26. Woolridge finished with 16 points for the Zags and center Filip Petrusev added 14 points and seven rebounds. Minlend led the Dons with 19 points and seven rebounds but missed his four 3-point attempts. Shabazz added 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-7 from deep) while Raitanen finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The nightcap between St. Mary’s and BYU figured to be a high scoring game. The teams split two games this season with St. Mary’s winning in overtime 87-84 and BYU edging the Gaels 81-79. That didn’t happen tonight as the game turned into a defensive battle. The first half was particularly slow with BYU taking a 26-20 lead into the halftime break. Both teams ran the shot clock down before taking a shot. The Gaels were called for two shot clock violations. 6-8 senior Yoeli Childs scored eight points for the Cougars on 4-of-6 from the field while Jake Toolson made 3-of-5 3s to score nine points. St. Mary’s leading scorer Jordan Ford connected on two 3s and scored six points.
BYU maintained their lead through the first part of the second half, going ahead 42-34 on a basket from Childs. Then St. Mary’s came to life. They scored 12 points in a row, highlighted by three baskets by Ford, and two Ford free throws after a technical foul was called on BYU’s coach Mark Pope. Childs broke the streak with a free throw but at that point the Gaels were in front 46-43.
BYU took the lead back on a nice offensive rebound and putback by Zac Seljaas. Seljaas was fouled and completed the 3-point play to give the Cougars a 48-46 lead. With BYU holding a 50-49 lead, Childs was blocked at the rim by Malik Fitts. The Gaels’ Ford then missed a runner. The Cougars then got the ball deep in the post to Childs, who missed a short hook shot giving St. Mary’s a chance for a last shot win. After a timeout Ford connected on a 12-foot jumper with 1.4 seconds left to give the Gaels a 51-50 lead. BYU couldn’t handle the long inbounds pass and St. Mary’s escaped with the win.
Ford led the Gaels with 18 points but Fitts had an off-game, shooting only 2-of-13 for nine points. He led his team in rebounding with eight. Childs was impressive for the Cougars with 23 points and 10 rebounds but only connected on 5-of-10 free throws and missed several close-in shots late in the game. TJ Haws shot only 2-of-14 with the Cougars connecting on a poor 24 percent (6-of-25) in the second half.