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Zags, Tigers hook up at Arena

Gonzaga’s Steven Gray drives past Portland’s Nik Raivio during the first half of Thursday’s game in Portland.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Steven Gray drives past Portland’s Nik Raivio during the first half of Thursday’s game in Portland. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga and Memphis collide at the Spokane Arena tomorrow in what looks to be a dandy matchup of ranked teams. ESPN's College GameDay will be on hand and fans are asked to wear black shirts. Much more, and my unedited game preview below.

Here's all you need to know about ESPN's College GameDay activities tomorrow.

And here's a GU release on "Black Out the Arena"...

Fans attending Saturday’s Gonzaga University-University of Memphis game in the Spokane Arena are encouraged to wear black shirts to “Black Out the Arena.” The game is promoted by Ronald McDonald House Charities to bring awareness to and aid in the fight against childhood cancer.

“This one-time special event will show unity and support for the Ronald McDonald House and it’s endeavors, not only in Spokane but nationwide,” said Mike Forness, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities in Spokane.

And here's my game preview...

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

Basketball purists probably carry fond recollections of the Gonzaga-Memphis games the last three years. There was Adam Morrison scoring 34 points, but the Tigers rallying from a six-point second-half deficit for an 83-72 win three years ago, one of just four losses GU suffered that season.

There was a pulsating 78-77 Memphis win in overtime against a short-handed, but valiant Bulldogs team at the Spokane Arena two years ago. And there was the top-ranked Tigers’ 81-73 victory at the FedEx Forum a year ago as Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts combined for 40 points.

“We’ve had some great games with them in the past,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “We just need to break through and win one of them.”

Gonzaga’s next opportunity comes tonight against the 14th-ranked Tigers (19-3) at 6 at the Spokane Arena. Memphis has won 13 straight, the second longest streak in the nation. The 18th-ranked Bulldogs (17-4) have reeled off nine consecutive wins.

Asked if Gonzaga owes the Tigers one, senior point guard Jeremy Pargo cracked, “We owe them three. It’s a game that we’ve looked forward to for a while and I’m pretty sure they’ve looked forward to it, too.”

The teams have dominated their respective conferences. Gonzaga has won eight straight WCC titles and is well positioned for No. 9 after defeating second-place Portland 93-78 on Thursday. Memphis has ruled Conference USA, winning its last 50 conference games.

“It’s just totally different going from a highly skilled team with incredible shooters (Portland) to one of the greatest collection of athletes in all of college basketball,” Few said. “They can really defend, they’re hard to score on, they’re very athletic on the glass and they mix in some presses.”

Memphis, which lost to Kansas in overtime in the NCAA championship last year, lost Rose, Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey to the NBA. Rose was the top overall pick while Douglas-Roberts and Dorsey were selected in the second round.

But the Tigers reloaded with freshman Tyreke Evans, who averages a team-high 16.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.4 assists. Seniors Robert Dozier (11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) and Antonio Anderson (10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds), and juniors Shawn Taggart (10.1 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Doneal Mack (9.5 points, 41 3-pointers) join Evans in the starting five.

Reserves see considerable time, but Memphis will be without injured freshman forward Wesley Witherspoon (knee) and freshman forward Matt Simpkins, who was dismissed from the team earlier this week.

The Tigers took off after Evans took over at point guard.

“We had a dumb coach early in the year who didn’t have Tyreke at point guard,” Memphis head coach John Calipari said. “That has really changed us and has made guys more comfortable. Now we have to get him playing a little better. We're playing tougher, more physical and that's what you need to be doing to be able to advance in the NCAA tournament.”

The Zags are looking forward to their annual game in the Arena.

“Thirteen thousand compared to 6,000,” Pargo said of the difference between playing in the Arena and the McCarthey Athletic Center. “That’s it. That’s the only difference.”




Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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