Injury concerns for both Gonzaga and Santa Clara are a subplot to their semifinal matchup Monday in the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Casino in Las Vegas.
Gonzaga welcomed the return of freshman forward Killian Tillie against Pacific on Saturday after he missed almost three weeks with a broken finger on his right hand. The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (30-1), however, may be without sophomore guard Josh Perkins, who sprained his left ankle midway through the game Saturday and did not return.
KJ Feagin, Santa Clara's second-leading scorer at 14.6 points per game, did not play in Saturday's win over San Francisco because of a concussion suffered in practice earlier in the week. Feagin is listed as questionable by Santa Clara (17-15) against Gonzaga.
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"He had been playing very well," Santa Clara coach Herb Sendek said. "These guys somehow pulled together and really executed the game plan. I thought they played with a lot of heart and courage."
Santa Clara, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, will be making its first appearance in the semifinals in six years. The Broncos' last appearance in the WCC semifinals occurred in 2011 when the fourth-seeded Broncos fell to No. 1 seed Saint Mary's.
Top-seeded Gonzaga, by contrast, has 15 conference tournament titles and 22 finals appearances, including each of the last 19 seasons.
"To me and to everybody else, it's just another game," said Santa Clara guard Jared Brownridge, who had 28 points against San Francisco. "All we have to do is be ready and lock in to what the coaches say and it's our job to go out there and perform."
Gonzaga needed a second half like it experienced against Pacific in the quarterfinal game Saturday night after suffering through what appeared to be a hangover in the first half from a loss in Spokane, Wash., to BYU in the previous game.
The Bulldogs' 27 points with only a two-point lead at halftime raised the blood pressure of coach Mark Few and their fans. Gonzaga looked its familiar self and went on to cruise to an 82-50 victory, but with it came mixed emotions from Perkins' ankle injury.
Few knows Tillie is able and ready again after missing almost three weeks with a broken finger on his right hand. He entered the game Saturday before halftime.
"It's good to be back," said Tillie, who had two points from the free throw line, two rebounds and two assists in six minutes. "I practiced all week for this."
Few added that Tillie was vital feeding Jordan Mathews for a couple of his four 3-pointers against Pacific and getting "high-low passes" to Przemek Karnowski at the post.
"He's a good player with a good feel who does a little bit of everything for us, which is different from those other three bigs," Few said, referring to Karnowski, Zach Collins and Johnathan Williams.
Few did not know Perkins' status after the game and Perkins declined interviews before limping out of the arena.
Gonzaga has won 38 of the last 40 meetings against Santa Clara, including the last 14 straight matchups. The Bulldogs swept the season series with an 88-57 win in Santa Clara and a 90-55 victory in Spokane.
"They're a gritty, tough team seems like they've discover to have success with their guards," Few said of Santa Clara, specifically Brownridge and Feagin.
"We have to do a great job guarding the 3(-point) line. I'm sure we'll see a mixture of man-to-man and zone. We have to be ready for whatever we see."