NEW YORK — Kyle Wiltjer found a lot more room than he expected down low at Madison Square Garden.
Wiltjer scored a career-high 32 points and No. 10 Gonzaga beat Georgia 88-76 on Wednesday night in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals.
“They were playing one-on-one coverage in the post and Kevin (Pangos) did a great job of feeding us down there,” Wiltjer said. “Not a lot of my 3s went down, but Kevin was finding me on those pocket passes on open side ball screens. They were having a tough time guarding us down low so we just tried to keep going at it and that’s where we got easy points.”
Wiltjer scored 16 of his 32 points in the first half to help Gonzaga take a 46-33 lead.
“Their team was getting nearly 29 points a game from the 3-point line and so we decided we were going to eliminate the 3-point line and then let their post players play one-on-one,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “He finished a lot of those plays. He’s just too good to play one-on-one.”
Georgia’s Nemanja Djurisic had the difficult task of guarding Wiltjer on his career night.
“It was hard because we were long on the post most of the times,” Djurisic said. “We tried to matchup and we tried to do different things, but often times he found a way to score either on us or the small guys when we switched. He’s a great player. We all knew that.”
Pangos added 22 points, six assists and three steals for Gonzaga (5-0). He also had his first turnover of the season through five games.
The Bulldogs will play St. John’s in the championship game Friday night. St. John’s beat Minnesota 70-61 in the first semifinal.
Charles Mann led Georgia (3-2) with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“I just wanted to be aggressive and just help my team win,” Mann said. “I was able to attack and I just wanted to keep on attacking and make plays at the rim.”
Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins left the game toward the end of the game after being kicked in the face. Coach Few said Perkins was heading to the hospital after the game for tests.
Gonzaga: Gonzaga entered the game leading the nation in assists per game at 22.8. It also ranked fourth in field goal percentage (56.1) and sixth in points per game (94.8).
Georgia: Georgia entered the game ranked 10th in blocked shots per game at 7.5.
Gonzaga: Gonzaga will play St. John’s on Friday in the championship game Friday night.
Georgia: Georgia will play Minnesota in the third-place game.