This one was different from Gonzaga’s three previous losses. Gonzaga was generally in control and led most of the way, but the offense dried up in crunch time. Dayton pounded GU on the boards, particularly the offensive glass, and made eight 3s in the second half. Kansas State had the upper hand against the Zags, even before Sam Dower Jr.’s back injury late in the first half. Portland simply outplayed the Bulldogs for 40 minutes.
Memphis, like Dayton, owned the glass, but the Tigers dialed up their defensive pressure and transition game in the final 14 minutes.
More below in my day-after post.
--I detailed some of GU’s late struggles in the game story. The Zags had just one bucket in the last five minutes and scored only 12 points in the final 14-plus minutes.
When the Tigers clamped down on Dower and Przemek Karnowski, the Bulldogs didn't seem to have a counter punch. They ran up against the shot clock. They turned it over twice. Pangos had a decent look at a 3 on an inbound pass and Dranginis was open for a corner 3 that would have tied it. The degree of difficulty was higher on GU’s other shots in crunch time.
“They really started trying to front us and not let us get the ball as easily,” Dower said. “And they helped, they were swarming us. We couldn’t get anything inside, we had to go outside. They were just ferocious on defense.”
Stockton and Pangos pointed out that one more basket in the closing minutes probably would have been enough to stem the rally.
“We have to take positives out of it, but at the same time we can’t accept it,” Pangos said. “We probably win that game if we make some plays down the stretch. We had some shock-clock violations, missed some shots. I probably should have shot it earlier” when Dower made a bank shot after the shot clock expired.
--Dower (37) and Karnowski (33) logged season-high minutes. Karnowski has had four games with 30-plus minutes. Dower has played 30 or more in six of the last seven outings.
Was fatigue a factor late?
“In games like that you don’t really feel tired,” Dower said. “I felt good pretty much the whole game.”
Karnowski exited for a few minutes after a flagrant foul on Memphis’ Dominic Woodson that resulted in Woodson’s ejection. Karnowski said his right knee absorbed the weight of the fall. He returned and played 17 second-half minutes.
--When 6-foot-1 guard Joe Jackson blocked the 7-1 Karnowski’s dunk attempt early in the second half, the play drew widespread attention, and rightfully so. It was on ESPN’s Top 10 plays, it was labeled a “play for the ages” by one national writer and it was all over my twitter feed.
Several Memphis players and coach Josh Pastner called the block the key to the Tigers’ comeback.
“That block started the run we needed,” Pastner said.
Yes, and no. It was a spectacular play, and it did start a run that cut GU’s 42-31 lead to 44-42. But the Bulldogs regained momentum and rebuilt the advantage to 52-43.
The sequence that prompted Memphis’ final comeback was Michael Dixon Jr.’s miss from close range, his offensive rebound and ensuing 3 that cut the deficit to six and roused an energetic crowd.
“We had a rebound that we didn’t pick up, like so many, and they got it and got a 3,” coach Mark Few said. “And that got that run going at the end.”
--The Tigers piled up 20 offensive rebounds, good for a 17-9 edge in second-chance points. Memphis outboarded GU 44-28, the sixth time the Zags have been outrebounded this season. Dayton, plus-11, was the largest margin prior to Saturday.
Gonzaga’s first-possession defense was solid most of the game, but somewhat overshadowed by the Tigers’ work on the boards. As the game wore on, Memphis guards penetrated off the dribble, applying foul pressure and cashing in at the FT line.
“(Memphis shot) 30-something percent,” Few said, “but then just giving up those putbacks and those 3s off offensive rebounds are impossible to guard.”
Dower led GU with eight rebounds.
“Relentless, with athleticism,” Dower said of the Tigers. “When you’re athletic with (being relentless), it can be hard to get rebounds but we should have rebounded way better than we did. I tip my hat to them. They crashed the boards as hard as anyone we’ve played this year.”
--Drew Barham’s homecoming didn’t turn out the way he envisioned. He played just five minutes.
“It’s tough to be happy, pretty frustrated,” he said. “I think we beat ourselves more than they beat us.”
--Gerard Coleman took over for a brief stretch in the first half. He had nine points in a 3:23 span and finished with 12, joining Karnowski as the team’s second-leading scorer. He had scored just eight points in the last four games.
“I just wanted to come in and provide energy and help my team,” he said. “They were looking for me early and looking out for me in transition.”
Coleman said Gonzaga has to “learn” from the defeat.
“It’s a good test,” he said. “When the tournament comes, we’re going to see a team like that in the first round. When we’re up 9 with a couple minutes to go, we have to keep our foot on gas and not let up.”
STATS OF NOTE
--Gonzaga made its first six shots of the second half, then went 6 of 18.
--Stockton, Pangos, Bell and Dranginis combined for just 12 points. Dranginis had his first goose egg since New Mexico State in early December.
--The Bulldogs, second nationally in 3-point percentage at 42%, missed 14 of 16 3-pointers.
--Pangos was just 1 of 7 on 3s, dropping him to 11 of 39 in the last six games. Take away his 6-of-10 effort vs. BYU and Pangos is 5 of 29 in that span.
It should be pointed out that Pangos is far from healthy. He’s battled turf toe (right big toe) for more than two months. He sprained his left ankle, the same one he rolled at San Francisco on Feb. 1, in practice earlier in the week. It’s apparently a more severe sprain than the original. It was puffy on the inside and outside of his ankle. He sat out Friday’s walk-through.
--Bell has five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the last two games.
--Dower is closing in on Pangos for the team scoring lead. Pangos is at 15 per game, Dower 14.7.
Stockton, when asked if Gonzaga had the game under control: “Oh yeah, no question. At the end of the game you have to make plays and make free throws. We kind of lost sight of that.”
Few on Memphis’ 24 second-half free throw attempts: “They were driving it hard. They’re really quick, hard to keep in front. We were trying to get in the our gaps, but be cognizant of Crawford at the 3. Because of the penetration, it broke down a lot of our rebounding responsibilities.”
Stockton: “We let them get out in transition. That’s really the only way they function, they’re really good at it. We can’t panic and have long shots because then it’s long rebounds and they’re out running.”
Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin on 3-point defense: “Usually when someone comes to Memphis somebody is hot, somebody’s going for 40. I don’t know if we had good defense or they were off, but 2 of 16, that’s amazing.”