Zags tame athletes, run Memphis out of the building


In a matchup of system versus raw athleticism, a national stage on ESPN2 and a sold out McCarthey Athletic Center, the Zags bested Memphis 82-64.

The Tigers (13-8, 3-6 American) would have incinerated the Zags in a dunk contest, but when it came down to Xs and Os, GU claimed the definitive edge. Gonzaga picks up its 15th-straight win in a quick midseason break from WCC play and did so in blowout fashion on National Gonzaga Day (yes, you read that correctly).

The skinny…

After a pair of Nick King free throws brought Memphis within six at 26-20 with 6:24 left in the first, the Zags closed out the first on a 15-5 run to claim a 43-25 halftime advantage. In the second the Tigers did not allow the Zags to completely take over, yet never cut the lead to single digits.

Przemek Karnowski finished with 17 points and seven rebounds and Kyle Wiltjer tallied 15 and six for GU.  Kevin Pangos struggled with his shot, going just 2 of 9 from the field, 0 of 5 from 3-point range. That said, Pangos played a game-high 39 minutes, likely to expose the senior guard to the type of backcourt defensive on-ball pressure that GU should see in March.

Memphis center Shaq Goodwin mustered a mighty zero points despite nabbing eight rebounds and team leader Austin Nichols was held to just 12 points on 6-of-16 shooting.

Player of the game…

Domantas Sabonis.  Leading the nation in field goal percentage with a whopping 71.8 percent (!!!!), the double-double machine continues to prove he is not just a sixth starter but also one of the nation’s top weapons off the bench down low. Notching 13 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench for his fifth double-double of the season, Sabonis had himself another wildly impressive night.

GU’s starting frontcourt Kyle Wiltjer and Przemek Karnowski combined for 32 points and 13 rebounds. Sabonis’ play was the icing on the cake for the dynamic trio’s big night. Any Player of the Game night-worthy performance usually has a highlight to attach, and the 6-10 Lithuanian big man provided nothing short of a clip for his highlight reel. Midway through the second quarter, Kyle Dranginis found a cutting Sabonis at the top of the key who took one dribble, euro-stepped and turned a reach layup for most into a left handed hulk smash dunk.

The play not only sent the crowd into a raucous state of loud disbelief, but it also procured a smile and a pumped up reaction from the freshman.

Up next…

Despite No. 2 Virginia suffering its first loss in a home matchup against No. 5 Duke, the Zags will not likely move up to No. 2 in the country.  This is solely due to the fact that, similar to GU,  UVA’s high octane play was only bested by a top five team which probably does not constitute a Bulldog leapfrog.

After picking up its first win over Portland in the second loop of conference play, the Zags head to the Bay Area to take on Santa Clara on Feb. 5 and San Francisco on Feb. 7.  Look to West Coast Convo for coverage of the road trip.