Many were wondering if Gonzaga's close win over Portland on Wednesday would have any bearing on tonight's big matchup against Memphis. Well, turns out it was pretty fantastic foreshadowing. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, Memphis had the talent that Portland did not have to turn that Gonzaga win into a complete and utter choke of a loss. With multiple double figure leads in the second half, the Zags were clearly the better team for a majority of tonight's game. However, in almost clockwork fashion, the Bulldogs let those leads slip away in remarkable fashion. The last big lead for GU, 52-43 with five minutes to play, was almost enough to let the casual Gonzaga fan take a deep breath but that quickly vanished as the Tigers closed the game on a 17-2 run to stun Mark Few's club.
A 17-2 run to close the game. Is there really anything else to focus on? Since I feel I should provide a decent summation of the game, I would not be honest if I didn't say there were not any good points. Most notably, I was blown away by the play of Gonzaga's big men tonight. Playing a tough, physical, and evidently cheap-shot prone Memphis frontline, the Dower and Karnowski combination was fantastic. They were smooth and composed while their backcourt teammates were running around in circles. Both Sam and Przemek left the game at different times with injury but bounced back quickly and finished the game with 30 combined points. Dower was 9-12 from the floor while Przemek was 5-9. The lasting memory of Karnowski will likely be Joe Jackson blocking his dunk attempt but he made a number of outstanding plays for his team tonight.
As we have seen all year, Gonzaga adapted well to Memphis' style. It was a sloppy affair but they really battled with the Tigers and did not succumb to their physicality for a good majority of the game. If there are any major statistical gaffes you can point to, it has to be the fact that, while Memphis missed a ton of shots, they were way too efficient on the offensive glass. That helped them stay in the game in the first half and it continued down the stretch. In total, the Tigers had an incredible 20 offensive boards.
The other facet that is hard to ignore is the completely inept play of Gonzaga's starting backcourt. Thank goodness for Gerard Coleman or else I don't know if Memphis would have guarded the backcourt in the second half. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell combined for a woeful 3-14 from the floor. For Gary Bell, in particular, it was potentially one of his worst games as a Gonzaga Bulldog. He was 1-5 from the floor with 3 turnovers. He did have 4 steals but he seemingly passed up on 3 or 4 quality looks in the second half. Bell started out the year as one of the top threats on the west coast offensively but has been a shell of himself since returning from injury.
17-2 run to close the game. Simply unreal to comprehend that type of finish to what looked like it would be Gonzaga's premier 2014 win. Now, as many national writers have pointed out, this team needs to be very, very careful to not slip up in the West Coast Conference tournament because this is a resume that is truly going to be void of a quality win.
I'll have more later but this is another implosion that is hard to swallow.