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Sports >  NCAA basketball

No .1 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Texas: Numbers add up to a big-time matchup

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 11, 2021

By any measure, No. 1 Gonzaga-No. 5 Texas qualifies as a huge game, but Saturday’s showdown goes straight to the top of the list as far as combined AP rankings for a Zags home game.

The next closest isn’t all that close. No. 10 Gonzaga lost to No. 13 Illinois 85-74 a decade ago. Third on the list is No. 8 Washington State edging No. 17 Gonzaga 51-47 on Dec. 5, 2007.

That WSU team, ranked No. 6 in the USA Today poll, and the 2006 Washington Huskies, No. 13 in AP and No. 8 in the coaches’ rankings, join the Longhorns as the only top-10 opponents to face a ranked Zags team at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The only other top-10 team to face the Zags at Gonzaga was No. 7 DePaul, which defeated GU 69-56 in 1981. No. 8 Memphis edged unranked Gonzaga 78-77 in overtime in 2007 at the Spokane Arena.

Put another way, Saturday’s game will be just the 12th featuring a ranked Gonzaga team vs. a ranked foe at the McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened in November 2004. Gonzaga frequently plays high-profile nonconference contests against ranked teams, but those usually come at holiday tournaments, on neutral courts and in the NCAA Tournament.

A ranked GU squad’s most recent home date versus a ranked opponent: North Carolina in 2019 when the Tar Heels were No. 23 in USA Today, unranked in the AP poll. Gonzaga’s last home game with both teams in the AP rankings: No. 25 Creighton in 2017.

The Gonzaga-North Carolina game, won by the Zags 94-81 in 2019, was probably the most highly anticipated game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Traditional power Michigan State, unranked at the time and riding Draymond Green’s 34 points to a 74-67 win in 2011, the 2007 loss to WSU and a 97-77 rout over No. 13 Washington in 2006 rank high on that list.

“I think (Texas) is at the top at this particular moment,” coach Mark Few said of the best opponents to play on GU’s home court during his 23 years as head coach. “It’s not just the seven transfers, it’s the two returning guards they have that have been there forever.

“I was just going through their roster. Their top seven seems like they’re seniors or fifth-year guys, but they were all-league at other places, in Big Ten, the Atlantic 10, in the Pac-12 (with) Timmy Allen. These aren’t the type of guys that are going to get too nervous walking into here.”

Gonzaga has been on a roll against ranked competition. The Zags’ loss to Baylor in the 2021 national championship game snapped a 10-game winning streak against ranked opponents that began after the Zags fell to Texas Tech 75-69 in the 2019 Elite Eight. The Red Raiders were coached by Chris Beard, now the first-year head coach at Texas.

Here’s a look back at the 11 games at the McCarthey Athletic Center with Gonzaga and its opponent both in the rankings.

Dec. 18, 2019: No. 2 Gonzaga 94, No. 23 North Carolina 81

Corey Kispert led the way with 26 points. Filip Petrusev finished with 20 points and Joel Ayayi, Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder each added 11 to send UNC to its fourth loss in five games. The Tar Heels played without standout guard Cole Anthony.

Dec. 1, 2017: No. 15 Gonzaga 91, No. 25 Creighton 74

Zach Norvell Jr. scored 21 second-half points, Silas Melson scored 16 in the opening half and Killian Tillie finished with 22. Norvell made four 3-pointers as the Zags outscored Creighton 54-30 in the second half.

Jan. 14, 2017: No. 5 Gonzaga 79, No. 21 Saint Mary’s 56

Nigel Williams-Goss had 19 points and six assists and Johnathan Williams added 14 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in GU’s convincing victory. Jordan Mathews buried four 3-pointers and scored 16 points.

Dec. 5, 2015: No. 19 Arizona 68, No. 13 Gonzaga 63

Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer combined for 51 points and 25 rebounds, but the Zags couldn’t hold on after building a 14-point lead late in the first half. Guard Gabe Anderson made four 3-pointers to fuel Arizona’s comeback.

Nov. 17, 2015: No. 13 Gonzaga 72, No. 22 SMU 56

Kevin Pangos connected on five 3-pointers and Domantas Sabonis had 13 points and nine rebounds as the Zags dominated the Mustangs. GU’s Kyle Wiltjer contributed 13 points.

Dec. 8, 2012: No. 13 Illinois 85, No. 10 Gonzaga 74

Guard Brandon Paul drilled five of the Illini’s 11 3-pointers and scored 35 points. Kelly Olynyk had 16 points and Elias Harris added 15 for the Zags, who led by 11 points in the first half.

Nov. 16, 2010: No. 25 San Diego State 79, No. 11 Gonzaga 76

Steven Gray scored 35 points, but it wasn’t enough against the Aztecs’ Billy White (30 points, nine rebounds) and Kawhi Leonard (18 points, 12 boards). Robert Sacre was the only other Zag in double figures with 13 points.

Jan. 29, 2009: No. 20 Gonzaga 69, No. 22 Saint Mary’s 62

Matt Bouldin scored 17 points, Steven Gray 14 and Jeremy Pargo 11 as the Zags rallied for a hard-fought win. Standout guard Patty Mills left with an injury after scoring 18 points as the Gaels led 39-33 at half.

March 1, 2008: No. 24 Gonzaga 88, No. 25 Saint Mary’s 76

Gonzaga committed just five turnovers – its fewest in a game in 23 seasons – and Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin combined for 39 points as the Zags clinched the WCC title and avenged a road loss in Moraga, California.

Dec. 5, 2007: No. 8 WSU 51, No. 17 Gonzaga 47

The Cougars controlled the pace and Taylor Rochestie hit a clutch 3-pointer with 28 seconds left. WSU’s Robbie Cowgill and Aron Baynes combined for 23 points and 18 boards. David Pendergraft paced Gonzaga with 15 points.

Dec. 9, 2006: No. 18 Gonzaga 97, No. 13 Washington 77

The first McCarthey matchup featuring ranked teams turned into a rout as guards Derek Raivio and Matt Bouldin combined for 45 points. Josh Heytvelt chipped in 14 points and seven boards.

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