MEMPHIS — Gonzaga has yet to put together 40 minutes of consistent basketball in a game, but often this season 30-35 minutes has been enough to claim a victory.
Not on Saturday. Not against No. 1 Memphis, which made the Bulldogs pay dearly for three key lapses and hit just enough free throws down the stretch to secure an 81-73 non-conference victory in front of 18,152 blue-clad fans at the FedExForum.
The Tigers (19-0) won for the third straight season against Gonzaga (15-5), which saw its six-game winning streak come to an end.
Memphis used its lethal transition game to put up three quick baskets and take a 10-0 lead in the first 2:10, but Gonzaga survived its jittery start. The Bulldogs took their only lead of the game, 32-30, after consecutive 3-pointers by Micah Downs, but they stumbled again at the end of the half.
Memphis scored the last five points for a 35-32 lead and opened the second half by scoring nine of the first 11 points.
“The run at the end of the first half and the one at the start of the second hurt us,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “By and large, we battled pretty well. We took care of the ball. We shot a good enough percentage to win. We just didn’t secure enough rebounds, which isn’t easy against that team, and we didn’t get enough stops down the stretch.”
After trailing by as many as 16, Gonzaga closed within six twice in the final minute. Memphis, a 59 percent free-throw shooting team, made just eight of 14 free throws before Chris Douglas-Roberts connected on a pair to effectively end Gonzaga’s hopes with 18.3 seconds remaining.
“We need to learn from every game,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “If that’s neutral (court), we probably could have lost (because of) how we played down the stretch.”
It never quite got that close. In fact, it was similar to the Gonzaga-Tennessee game last month in Seattle, where the Zags were in danger of getting blown out in the second half before making a late charge.
“Every time if felt like it was going to swing our way, we gave up an offensive rebound or a big shot or we put them on the line,” said Zags guard Jeremy Pargo, who had 25 points and seven assists in front of about 30 friends and relatives in attendance.
Pargo put Gonzaga on his back for big portions of the contest. He assisted on both of Downs’ 3-pointers, but he missed a long 3-pointer early in the shot clock and Downs made a pass that was swiped by the Tigers, who converted when high-rising guard Derrick Rose dunked a missed shot by Joey Dorsey just before the buzzer.
Gonzaga went to a 2-3 zone midway through the first half, which helped slow down the Tigers and often forced them to shoot from the perimeter.
The Tigers made just six of 24 3-pointers, but they solved the zone in the second half.
“It really helped us get back in it, but in the second half we kind of stood around and we weren’t quite as active,” Few said. “They got comfortable against it, banged in a couple of shots and started rebounding.”
Gonzaga did a decent job against the Tigers’ full-court press and half-court man-to-man defense. The Zags had just 13 turnovers, but Memphis still managed a 21-7 edge in points off turnovers. The Tigers ran at every chance, leading to a 23-8 advantage in fast-break points.
“It was kind of shocking at the beginning,” Gonzaga center Josh Heytvelt said. “I knew they ran and played offense like that, but it’s one of those things if you haven’t seen it, you don’t know what to expect.”
No. 1 MEMPHIS 81, GONZAGA 73
Heytvelt 5-11 1-2 13, Pargo 9-16 6-7 25, Bouldin 2-9 1-1 6, Pendergraft 3-9 0-0 7, Gray 1-4 0-0 3, Daye 0-1 0-0 0, Gurganious 0-0 0-0 0, Downs 4-4 1-2 11, Kuso 1-2 2-2 4, Brown 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 27-58 11-14 73.
Dozier 0-5 4-4 4, Dorsey 4-5 1-3 9, Anderson 5-9 0-1 12, Douglas-Roberts 7-11 6-11 21, Rose 6-12 6-10 19, Taggart 2-5 1-1 5, Kemp 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Mack 3-11 1-2 9. Totals 28-60 19-32 81.
Halftime—Memphis 35-32. 3-Point Goals—Gonzaga 8-21 (Downs 2-2, Heytvelt 2-4, Gray 1-3, Pargo 1-3, Pendergraft 1-4, Bouldin 1-5), Memphis 6-24 (Anderson 2-6, Mack 2-8, Rose 1-3, Douglas-Roberts 1-4, Dozier 0-1, Taggart 0-2). Fouled Out—Dorsey, Kuso. Rebounds—Gonzaga 28 (Heytvelt 7), Memphis 40 (Dorsey 13). Assists—Gonzaga 14 (Pargo 7), Memphis 15 (Rose 9). Total Fouls—Gonzaga 24, Memphis 16. A—18,152.