Memphis Tigers vs. Gonzaga (Saturday, 3pm, FEF)



• This interregional series began during the 2005-06 season,the aim being to get two of the best programs outside the six major conferences on the same floor. A member of the West Coast Conference, Gonzaga has won at least 23 games every season since coach Mark Few took over the program for the 1999-2000 campaign. The Zags have reached the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 four times under Few (2000, 2001, 2006, 2009).


• Gonzaga enters Saturday’s nationally televised matinee with a record of 18-4, its most recent victory being a drubbing of Portland Thursday night. A loss at San Francisco last Saturday ended a nine-game winning streak for the Zags. Their other three losses were all to big-conference powers: Michigan State, Wake Forest, and Duke.

• The Tigers have won all four meetings since the annual series began on December 27, 2005. That was a battle of Top 10 foes, the 4th-ranked Tigers beating the 8th-ranked Zags, 83-72. Saturday’s game will be the first in the series in which Memphis is not ranked in the Top 20. (Gonzaga enters ranked 17th in the country.) When the U of M beat Gonzaga on January 26, 2008, it was the first home game after the Tigers were elevated to number-one in the country. (Gonzaga won the very first game played with Memphis, on November 16, 1998, part of the preseason NIT that year.)

• Senior guard Matt Bouldin leads Gonzaga in scoring with 16.6 points per game, with freshman forward Elias Harris contributing 16.0. Junior guard Steven Gray is scoring at a 13.5 clip and sophomore center Robert Sacre — a seven-footer — is averaging an even 10.0. Harris leads the club in rebounding with 8.4 per game. Bouldin contributes 4.2 assists per game.

• Tiger coach Josh Pastner has looked all season for a game in which all his offensive weapons are on target. (The closest was the victory over Houston on January 23rd, when five players reached double figures.) In the big win over UAB Wednesday night, Elliot Williams and Wesley Witherspoon combined to score 54 points, but Roburt Sallie and Doneal Mack contributed a total of 15. A more even distribution of the scoring load will add to opponents’ match-up difficulties.

• Memphis is looking for a second straight win over a team in the RPI’s top 30. Gonzaga is currently ranked 29th. (The Tigers are 70th.)

• A victory Saturday would be the 1,400th in Tiger history.

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