News traveled fast when four former Gonzaga Bulldogs were pictured sharing an NBA court at the same time on Saturday.
Washington, featuring Rui Hachimura and rookie Corey Kispert, and Memphis, featuring Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie, warned at the Grizzlies’ FedEx Forum at 5:00 p.m. PST.
Gonzaga’s 104-72 blowout over Portland swung shortly after 6 p.m., but head coach Mark Few received a text message before the Zags took to the ground at the McCarthey Athletic Center alerting him to the GU meeting in Memphis .
“Actually, the general manager (general manager) sent me a photo,” Few said. “I got to see it before our game. Pretty cool. I saved it, good stuff.
More on the NBA Zags, GU’s 3-point madness against the Pilots and handling the hectic nature of Saturday’s game in our latest Gonzaga takeaways.
Photos of former Zags with NBA experience adorn the walls outside the team’s locker room. The school may need to find a special place to post a snapshot of the four Zags posing together after the Grizzlies’ 115-95 win. Tillie posted the photo with the caption: “Zags4life”.
All four were teammates on the 2019 Zags. They were also all on the 2018 roster when Clarke sat under NCAA transfer rules after being transferred from San Jose State.
Seven players – Tillie, Clarke, Kispert, Hachimura, Johnathan Williams, Zach Norvell Jr. and Joel Ayayi – on the 2018 roster have played in the NBA.
“This place is so amazing with how connected (former Gonzaga players are), even those who don’t play together,” said Few, sounding like a proud parent with 10 Zags currently on NBA rosters. “When (rookie Jalen) Suggs and Domas (Sabonis) play, they go out to dinner together and they’ve never even been close in class. Zach (Collins) does a great job of connecting everyone.
“It’s really nice, moving. When you have time when you’re not watching college basketball, it’s great to turn on a TV and usually you can watch one of your guys.
Clarke had 10 points and six boards in Saturday’s victory. Tillie added two 3-pointers and six-pointers for the Grizzlies, who have the NBA’s third-best record at 35-17. Kispert had five points and five rebounds for Washington (23-26). Hachimura finished with four points and two assists.
In a Zag-centric sequence, Hachimura picked up Kispert’s errant 3 and fed Deni Avdija, whose shot was denied by Clarke. The ball went to Kispert in the corner but his 3-ball was smashed into the seats by Tillie.
Few people hadn’t seen the video of this piece, but said, “I’m sure my kids will let me know when I get home. It’s good, Tillie is the old man of the group. He must show young people how it is done.
Easy as 1-2-3
Portland basically dared Gonzaga to shoot 3-pointers and the Zags complied 41 times. Eighteen found the back of the net.
The pilots’ strategy would have seemed more reasonable six weeks ago when GU was at 32.9% accuracy from deep. The Zags hit 44.2 percent in six conference games, bringing their season percentage to 37.8 and ranking 23rd nationally.
“We had a new team, guys in a lot of different roles, catching the ball in spots, maybe they didn’t catch it,” said senior guard Andrew Nembhard, who punched four 3s in three of the last nine contests. “We’re getting used to playing together, playing our attack, so now we all feel more comfortable and the shots are going to come in.”
Not many people said that the stats “eventually even out.” He added that having multiple 3-point threats — eight 3-hits against Portland and eight combined for 12 3s in Thursday’s rout of Loyola Marymount — benefits the offense in several ways.
“That should open the floor, even if tonight it doesn’t,” Few said. “But most plays it opens up the floor which then gives Drew (Timme) more room in the post on our outs from our ball screen action. They chose their poison and chose not to keep us.
“The guys did a great job. It all started with Andrew shooting the first couple when they went under the ball. We took the good ones for the most part.
There was a lot of chatter on the pitch and a lot of fouls, several of the hard variety with two technical and one intentional. The teams combined for 45 fouls, 24 on the Zags, tying their season high (Duke).
The Portland bench was whistled for a technical in the first half. Gonzaga junior Anton Watson was called for a technical after being fouled in the paint in the second half. It was his first technique since getting one on a dunk as Gonzaga Prep Bullpup.
“It was the only time we were going to play in Portland (this season) so I think they wanted to bring everything they had,” Watson said. “But most games shouldn’t be chippy like that.”
The Zags had just 28 paint points, but they spent quite a bit of time on the free throw line (18 of 24) and won the rebound battle by 10.
“As we keep going through the season, teams are going to try to be more physical, sports teams are going to try to be more physical with us,” Nembhard said. “We’ve got the type of team that’s good at fighting that, a lot of guys that can get physical and deliver punches too.”