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Gonzaga takes care of Georgia in NIT Tip-Off

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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NEW YORK — Georgia coach Mark Fox gambled that if his Bulldogs took away Gonzaga’s ability to hit 3-pointers, he might have a chance against the No. 10 team in the country in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Wednesday.

The risky decision worked as Gonzaga hit only four 3-pointers, well below its 9.2 average. However, by sealing off the perimeter, Georgia was forced to play man-to-man in the post and that’s where it got burned.

Gonzaga (5-0) forward Kyle Wiltjer turned in his best performance since transferring from Kentucky, scoring 32 points and leading his team to an 88-76 win over Georgia at Madison Square Garden.

Gonzaga (5-0) will meet St. John’s (4-0) in the championship game Friday. Georgia (3-2) faces Minnesota (3-2) in the consolation game.

Georgia was led by junior guard Charles Mann, who tossed in 23 points. Guard J.J. Frazier scored 14 points, and forward Nemanja Djurisic scored 10. Georgia shot 43.9 percent from the field and was outrebounded 35-29.

Wiltjer, a redshirt junior, sat out last season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He played a pivotal role on Kentucky’s 2012 national championship team while being selected the SEC Sixth Man of the Year.

He scored six consecutive points to increase Gonzaga’s lead to 52-35 less than four minutes into the second half.

“We decided to take away their (Gonzaga) 3’s,” Fox said. “They were getting about 29 points a game from the 3-point line so we wanted to take that away, and then let their post players play one-one-one.

“But (Wiltjer) is just too good to play one-on-one. But the gamble was to leave him (Wiltjer) in that situation and we sent some help in the second half one he got hot. But if you sent coverage to double-team him, you would leave their great 3-point shooting open.

“That’s why Gonzaga is such a tough matchup.”

Wiltjer finished 14-for-26 from the floor, taking exactly half of his team’s shot attempts. Guard Kevin Pangos added 22 points for Gonzaga, which hit 50 percent of its shot from the floor.

“Kev (Pangos) did a great job of feeding us down there,” Wiltjer said. “Not a lot of my 3’s went down, but Kev found me on the pocket passes and they (Georgia) were having a tough time guarding us. That’s where we got easy points.”

Wiltjer converted seven of his 12 shots from the field as Gonzaga shot a sizzling 53 percent and led 46-33 at the half.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” said Wiltjer of playing with his new teammates. “We really have an unselfish group of guys and we play hard. So when we play hard, I think that’s when it’s the funniest.”

Playing at Madison Square Garden for only the sixth time, Gonzaga opened up on a 21-8 run. Pangos led the barrage with eight points.

NOTES: Gonzaga is the only team in the nation ranked in the top 10 in both field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense. It is third in the country in scoring margin. … Six players are averaging double figures for Gonzaga. … Gonzaga freshman F Domantas Sabonis is the son of NBA Hall-of-Famer Arvydas Sabonis. … The two schools split their four previous matchups.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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