SPOKANE, Wash. — Memphis coach Josh Pastner had not been shy about telling people that he considers Gonzaga to be a legitimate contender for the NCAA championship this season. Pastner’s opinion did not change after the third-ranked Bulldogs thrashed Memphis on Saturday night.
“That’s a really good team,” Pastner summed up after Gonzaga breezed to an 82-62 nonconference victory at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gonzaga (22-1) has won 15 straight games, and 38 in a row at home.
The defense-minded Tigers allowed season highs in points, field-goal percentage (55.3) and 3-point shooting percentage (50.0). Five Bulldogs scored in double figures, led by center Przemek Karnowski (17 points) and forwards Kyle Wiltjer (15) and Domantas Sabonis (13).
“Wiltjer hit some long shots … Sabonis is just so skilled down low, and big Karnowski, you can’t do much with him,” Memphis forward Austin Nichols said.
The 7-foot-1, 288-pound Karnowski dominated the smaller, younger Tigers down low. Wiltjer, a 6-foot-10, 240-pounder, scored from all over the floor. The 6-foot-10, 231-pound Sabonis scores well near the basket, and he grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
“We’re a very unselfish team,” Wiltjer said, “and we shared the ball really well. I think that hurts them because we have such good depth.”
The Tigers, whose only senior (forward Calvin Godfrey) comes off the bench, fell to 13-8. Reserve swingman Nick King led the Tigers with 13 points. Nichols, the only Memphis player averaging more than 9.1 points per game, scored 12 on 6-for-16 shooting.
“I couldn’t hit anything tonight,” Nichols said.
Nichols was not alone, particularly in the opening half. The Tigers, who trailed all the way, sank just nine of 35 shots (25.7 percent) in the first half to fall behind 43-25 before a sellout crowd of 6,000. The 18-point halftime deficit was a season high for Memphis.
The Bulldogs started the day ranked first nationally with 52.7 percent shooting from the field, and they were 17th in field-goal shooting percentage defense at 37.8.
Memphis, known for sticky defense and spotty offense, had won two in a row and 11 of 15. The Tigers gave the Bulldogs some trouble with presses and traps late in the game. The Bulldogs players said they were pleased to play a more athletic team than they typically face in the West Coast Conference.
“That was a good win against a really athletic and dangerous, opportunistic team,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “For the most part, I thought we handled the physicality and athleticism of that game. I think we got a little sloppy at the end, but that is stuff we can address in practice.”
“It was a really good test for us,” Wiltjer said, “just having a team that style out of conference. Kind of a little break for us and play a team like we’re going to face, probably, in the (NCAA) tournament.”
NOTES: Memphis coach Josh Pastner said Gonzaga coach Mark Few should already be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Few’s career record of 425-101 is good for a .808 winning percentage, which ranks first in major college history. … All 16 of Few’s teams have won more than 20 games, and he’s on track to guide the Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament for the 16th straight year. Few has coached at Gonzaga since 1990-91 and became head coach in 1999-2000. He had minimal experience as a high school coach before coming to Gonzaga. … A Gonzaga spokesperson said personnel from seven NBA teams requested credentials for the game. The only Gonzaga or Memphis player ranked among ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects for 2015 is Bulldogs freshman F Domantas Sabonis at No. 41. Sabonis averages 10.1 points, a team-high 7.0 rebounds and 21.8 minutes per game as a reserve. His 71.8 shooting percentage from the field would lead NCAA Division I if he had enough attempts to qualify. The son of Hall of Fame C Arvydas Sabonis played two seasons without pay in a Spanish pro league. … Memphis had won all three previous Spokane games with Gonzaga, but those games were played at the nearby Spokane Arena. The Tigers, who lead the series 6-3, won the previous two meetings with the Bulldogs.
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