No. 14 Memphis pounds No. 18 Zags 68-50
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)—John Calipari liked what he saw as his 14th-ranked Memphis Tigers dominated No. 18 Gonzaga 68-50 in a nationally televised game Saturday night.
“We can’t play much better,” Calipari said after Memphis won its 14th consecutive game, the nation’s second-longest streak. “There may be a better defensive team in the country (than Memphis), but I’ve got to see it.”
Memphis (20-3) ran out to a 26-point lead in the second half, and only a late rally by Gonzaga made the game seem competitive.
Gonzaga (17-5) was held to a season low in scoring, 29 points below its average, and shot only 36 percent while committing 15 turnovers.
Both teams are dominating their conference races, so this was a last chance for each to impress the NCAA selection committee. Memphis sure did, as Tyreke Evans scored 22 points and Robert Dozier added 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think we are one of the best teams in the country,” said Evans, a freshman.
The Memphis defense hounded Gonzaga’s best shooters. Leading scorer Josh Heytvelt scored 11 points, but most after the outcome was no longer in doubt. Matt Bouldin scored just six points, seven below his average. Jeremy Pargo, the reigning West Coast Conference player of the year, scored two points and had four assists, but five turnovers.
Dozier said the plan was to try and deflect every loose ball and harry the Zags.
“We executed everything to perfection,” Dozier said. “I think this had to be our best effort of the year.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few agreed.
“They dominated us in every phase of the game,” Few said. “We didn’t have an answer for them.”
The Zags were outrebounded 39-25, had five of their shots blocked, and couldn’t catch a break from the unfamiliar rims at the Spokane Arena, where they play one game per year. The arena is nearly twice the size of the on-campus McCarthey Athletic Center.
“Obviously they are quite a bit more athletic than us,” Few said.
Micah Downs came off the bench to score 13 points for Gonzaga, which saw its nine-game winning streak snapped.
Memphis, which lost to Kansas in the NCAA title game last season, has won four in a row against Gonzaga in what has become an annual series. This was the first blowout.
Both teams are dominating their lightly regarded leagues. Memphis is 8-0 in Conference USA, while the Zags are 8-0 in the West Coast Conference.
The game featured two of the nation’s better defenses, and both teams were held below their scoring averages.
Memphis went on a 12-2 run to build a 23-12 lead midway through the first half, as the Zags were hampered by turnovers.
Downs hit a 3-pointer and two free throws as the Zags cut the lead to 28-20, the closest they would get. Evans hit 3-pointers at the beginning and end of a 12-3 run to give the Tigers a 40-23 halftime lead. Evans had 14 first-half points.
Heytvelt had just three points in the first and Bouldin was scoreless for Gonzaga. The 23 first-half points were the lowest for the Zags this season.
Dozier scored five early second half points as Memphis built a 47-27 lead. The Zags missed eight of their first 10 shots in the second.
Evans’ basket gave Memphis a 60-34 lead with about eight minutes left.
Memphis suddenly went cold and the Zags scored 13 straight points to cut their deficit to 60-47 with 3:29 left. Memphis was scoreless for seven minutes before Evans’ jumper made it 62-47 with 1:48 left, killing the Zags’ momentum.
“I was disappointed that last five minutes went the way it did,” Calipari said.
The Zags came in averaging 79 points, and lead the nation in opponents’ field-goal percentage, allowing just 36.6 percent—but Memphis shot 44 percent.