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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga, Kentucky extend series to six games, finale set for McCarthey Athletic Center

Oct. 6, 2022 Updated Thu., Oct. 6, 2022 at 8:19 p.m.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few reacts as he is hugged by forward Drew Timme (2) during the second half of a college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few reacts as he is hugged by forward Drew Timme (2) during the second half of a college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

College basketball powers Gonzaga and Kentucky have only met once, but that’s going to change in a big way over the next six seasons.

The Zags and Wildcats were already scheduled to meet Nov. 20 at the Spokane Arena with a return date next season at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. The schools announced Thursday morning that the series has been extended with annual meetings through the 2027-28 season.

“This is something coach (John) Calipari and I have been working on for some time,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said in a school news release. “It’s an exciting thing for both programs, both schools, both fan bases, and all of college basketball. Instead of a two-year thing, this gives everyone something to put on their calendar and look forward to over the next six seasons.”

The teams will clash in Seattle, presumably at Climate Pledge Arena, in 2024-25 and in Nashville, Tennessee, the following season.

The 2026-27 clash will be held at Rupp Arena with the Wildcats visiting the McCarthey Athletic Center in the series finale in 2027-28.

Calipari hinted at the possibility of a longer series in early August, shortly after the first two games were announced. At the time, he also addressed why the first game was scheduled for the Spokane Arena instead of the Kennel.

“Anybody that wants us to play in a 6,000-seat facility, wants us to lose! And I get that,” Calipari tweeted. “I tried to look back and find the last time UK played in a true regular-season road game with 6,000 or fewer fans. I stopped looking after the ’70s.

“This is great for both schools and I can’t wait to get the series started. Maybe we make this four years?”

Few said the addition of four games to the series came from extended discussions with Calipari.

“Initially it was so late to get the first game out there (this November), he brought that to me in one of our many conversations,” Few said. “We actually had to move a game around to accommodate it. Then we got talking more and said it’d be great to do and followed that with a neutral-neutral like we’ve done in the past with Arizona and some others.

“And then he’s like, why don’t we just add two more on the back end of it. Hopefully it’ll be a marker for everybody else to start scheduling more of these games and we can kind of anchor them in moving forward almost like football does instead of doing the stuff year by year deep into the summer and, in this case, even into the fall.”

A reporter mentioned the latter method probably cut into Few’s fishing time. “Yeah it did, actually,” Few said.

The lone meeting between the two programs took place at the 2002 Maui Invitational when Kentucky edged GU 80-72.

“Mark is a great friend and what he has done at Gonzaga to build them into one of the premier programs in our sport is incredible,” Calipari said. “The mindset I have when I put together our schedule here at Kentucky is that we want to always challenge ourselves by competing with the best teams we can find and generate some marquee home games for the best fans in the country.

“We have done that with Gonzaga and I look forward to competing with them the next six seasons.”

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