Memphis coach John Calipari watched the final seconds tick away and shook hands with Gonzaga counterpart Mark Few in front of the scorer’s table.
“As good as we can play,” Calipari offered.
The Bulldogs couldn’t come close to saying the same. The 14th-ranked Tigers dominated No. 18 Gonzaga in every way possible, leading by as many as 26 en route to a 68-50 men’s basketball victory Saturday in front of 11,339 at the Arena.
Gonzaga’s nine-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt. The Bulldogs (17-5) were limited to their lowest point total of the season (by 14) and suffered their second-worst shooting performance (36.7 percent).
It was Gonzaga’s most lopsided loss in Spokane since an 80-56 setback to Pepperdine in February 1991.
“They got us in every phase,” Few said. “They just played a lot harder and a lot tougher than us. You better match their energy and intensity or else. Obviously, they’re quite a bit more athletic than us. You have to fight them a little better than that.”
The expected showdown of teams that rule their respective conferences never materialized. Gonzaga had eight field goals and 11 turnovers – four by Jeremy Pargo in a 2-minute, 30-second stretch – while falling behind 40-23 at half. Gonzaga’s biggest deficit this season had been 15 in the January matchup with Tennessee.
It got worse before it got better. The Tigers stifled Gonzaga’s primary offensive weapons, dominated the glass and led 60-34 with 8:44 remaining. At that point, Few benched starters Pargo, Austin Daye and Matt Bouldin, who didn’t score his first point until 8 minutes had elapsed in the second half.
“It was time to look at somebody else,” Few said. “The starters weren’t doing anything.”
With Demetri Goodson, Ira Brown, Josh Heytvelt, Steven Gray and Micah Downs on the floor, Gonzaga scored 13 unanswered points. The Bulldogs closed within 12 on Brown’s three-point play with 1:26 left, but the Tigers made their last six free throws.
Point guard Tyreke Evans had 22 points to lead Memphis (20-3) to its 14th consecutive win, the second-longest streak in the nation. The Tigers have defeated Gonzaga four straight years.
“They were just pressuring us,” said Daye, who scored six points. “We’re probably one of the best teams at taking care of the ball the last two years and we just didn’t do it. We were really sloppy. I mean, when’s the last time we scored 50 points?”
The Zags scored 52 against Santa Clara in the WCC tournament last year and 47 in a loss to Washington State.
“We should never have a problem running our sets,” said Bouldin, who was shut down by 6-foot-6 senior Antonio Anderson. “They just forced us out of everything because they played harder.”
Memphis forward Robert Dozier had 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also limited Daye to his second-lowest scoring game of the season.
“We scouted him,” Dozier said. “He had a history of getting frustrated once guys bump him and play him physical, so I just tried to do that.”
The Tigers outrebounded GU 39-25 and had a 14-2 edge in second-chance points. Evans, a smooth 6-foot-6 freshman who repeatedly penetrated and either scored or found open teammates, also had six rebounds.
The trio of Bouldin, Gray and Pargo combined for 62 points in Thursday’s win over Portland. They had 13 points on 4-of-20 shooting against the Tigers. Downs led GU with 13 points, including 3 of 3 on 3-pointers.
“Evans did a great job at point, and their 4s and 5s just throttled us,” Few said. “We really didn’t have anything we could go to.”
Gonzaga faces Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday.
Memphis 68, Gonzaga 50
Percentages: FG .442, FT .789. 3-Point Goals: 7-20, .350 (Evans 3-6, Kemp 1-5, Mack 1-4, Anderson 1-2, Dozier 1-2, Sallie 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 5 (Taggart 3, Dozier, Evans). Turnovers: 16 (Dozier 4, Anderson 4, Evans 2, Henderson-Niles 2, Mack). Steals: 7 (Taggart, Dozier, Anderson, Evans, Mack, Kemp, Henderson-Niles). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .367, FT .833. 3-Point Goals: 4-15, .267 (Downs 3-3, Daye 1-1, Heytvelt 0-3, Bouldin 0-3, Brown 0-2, Gray 0-2, Pargo 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 0. Turnovers: 15 (Pargo 5, Daye 3, Heytvelt 2, Bouldin 2, Gray, Goodson, Downs). Steals: 3 (Gray 2, Brown). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Memphis 40, Gonzaga 23. A–11,339.