Gonzaga was up three at halftime on the road at Memphis.
That was stretched to double-digits in the second half. Przemek Karnowski was ready to extend that lead to a baker’s dozen with under 14 to play in regulation, until Memphis guard Joe Jackson — who gives up a foot in height to Karnowski — met him at the rim with one of the best blocks you’ll see all year.
That play sparked the first of two runs in the second half for No. 24 Memphis, as the Tigers secured an important 60-54 non-conference win over No. 23 Gonzaga on Saturday night.
“We blew a golden opportunity,” Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos said in the locker room following the loss according to Jim Meehan of the Spokesman-Review.
Memphis’ resume added another impressive victory on Saturday to go along with its bounce-back performance against then-No. 5 Oklahoma State on a neutral floor and a road win over then-No. 12 Louisville. Gonzaga needed a statement win this season, and Saturday night offered its final chance, which the Bulldogs squandered in the second half.
The Zags hurt their non-conference schedule before Thanksgiving, losing to Dayton in the Maui Invitational. That put the Zags in the opposite side of the bracket, playing Chaminade and Arkansas while the Flyers advanced to the winners side which featured Baylor and Syracuse. In December, Gonzaga also dropped a out-of-conference game to Kansas State.
To date its best win is a come-from-behind victory over West Virginia — a team holding its own in a tough Big 12 — in Morgantown and a West Coast Conference win over BYU.
Gonzaga is the top team in the WCC, currently has 21 wins on the season with an RPI of 22. The Zags will be in the field of 68 — in the latest edition of College Basketball Talk’s Bracketology projected as a No. 6 seed.
But Mark Few’s team certainly missed a “golden opportunity” to improve that seed and with a four-game road trip (including a rematch with BYU) to end the regular season, Gonzaga has another chance to slip up before Selection Sunday.