For the seventh year in a row, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will be dancing into the second week of the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, the Zags defeated the regional No. 9 seed Memphis Tigers 82-78, inspired by a second half performance that led the Zags to overcome a double-digit first half deficit for the first time all season.
In the Zags’ round of 64 round win against Georgia State, they faced issues allowing second chance points and missing opportunities at the free throw line. Those problems weren’t amended against Memphis on Friday, as the Tigers jumped out in the first half to out rebound the Zags on the offensively 7-to-2 in the game’s first 14 minutes. The Zags also could’ve padded their own scoring effort multiple times after drawing 11 fouls in the first half, but started the game just 4-for-9 at the free throw line.
With six minutes left before halftime, DeAndre Williams cleaned the glass off a missed 3-point attempt from teammate Tyler Harris and layed it back in, and the Tigers were within one down 22-21.
A couple minutes later with Memphis now in the lead for the first time all game, a shooting foul on Drew Timme was argued by Mark Few and the GU bench. The refs gave a technical to Few and the bench, awarding Harris four shots at the free throw line, which he converted all of.
That was a part of a 12-3 run for the Tigers, who were then up 39-28 with under a minute left until halftime while the Zags went cold for three and a half minutes.
The Zags were able to put dual threat center Jalen Duren into foul trouble early in the first half, which sidelined him for the final 10 minutes. However, Memphis boasts a deep bench rotation, one that dropped 23 first half points to help the Tigers stay up 10 as the first 20 minutes wound down.
Drew Timme came alive coming out of the locker room after he and front court companion Chet Holmgren combined for six first half points, and he galvanized a run to get GU back in the game. He accounted for 12 of the points that were part of a 14-6 GU un to start the half and help the team climb back within one possession.
The Zags soon reclaimed the lead for the first time all half after Timme grabbed an offensive rebound off a GU missed free throw and hit a post hook shot to go up 58-57. He finished with a game high 25 points and 14 rebounds.
Besides Holmgren getting subbed out for Anton Watson at times due to foul trouble, Few shortened the rotation greatly on Saturday, especially in the back court. Andrew Nembhard played all 40 minutes, and after a strong start to the game scoring 13 of the Zags’ first 20 points, he got back going in crunch time.
As the Tigers were desperately trying to reclaim the lead, tying the score twice down the stretch, Nembhard became GU’s by not only getting his teammates open looks, but also by hitting a deep three hit with 4:30 left to make it a five point game.
Then, as the game got down to the wire, Memphis had to resort to fouling, which appeared auspicious for the Tigers given that the Zags were shooting 38.9% from the line up to that point. However, Rasir Bolton, who was sent to the line once in the game’s final minute, and Nembhard, who was put on the charity stripe twice, knocked down all of their shots to ice GU’s four point lead as the Zags held onto win.
Nembhard wrapped up the round of 32 win with 23 points and five assists while Bolton had 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting; both shot 50% from beyond the arc in the game. The Zags next have to look forward to a Sweet 16 matchup with the four-seed University of Arkansas, the No. 17 team in the country, in San Francisco on Thursday.