MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis coach Josh Pastner wasn’t going to let No. 23 Gonzaga win on its 3-point shooting.
And while the strategy seemed at first suspect, it eventually proved the right move for the No. 24 Tigers.
Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon Jr. both had 11 points, and Memphis scored the final 10 of the game to beat Gonzaga 60-54 in a non-conference game Saturday night.
“I kept saying: ‘If we give up some 2s, that’s OK,’” Pastner said he told his team. “We could not give up any 3s. We were not going to hold them scoreless, but if we’re giving up anything, it’s going to be 3s.”
Gonzaga, one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country at 42 percent, was 2 of 16 from outside the arc. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga’s leading scorer at 15.3 a game, was limited to seven points, and was 1 for 7 from 3-point range.
“We kept staying with the game plan. We did not relax,” Pastner said. “We just said: ‘Hey, this is what we are doing, and if they beat us, they’re going to beat us with 2s.’”
Dixon’s layup with 1:11 left came in the midst of the final rally as the Tigers (18-5) erased Gonzaga’s nine-point lead.
“We just didn’t execute and didn’t do a good job making plays,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the stretch performance.
Shaq Goodwin and Joe Jackson had 10 points each for Memphis, which has won six of seven. Goodwin had eight rebounds and three blocks as Memphis controlled the boards 44-28.
Sam Dower led Gonzaga (21-4) with 18 points and eight rebounds, shooting 9 of 12 from the field. Przemek Karnowski and Gerard Coleman had 12 points apiece.
Gonzaga led 54-50 with 3:16 left when Pangos connected from 15 feet. But the Zags did not score again, and Dixon had six points in the final 4 minutes for Memphis.
“We had to grind it out,” Pastner said. “This was a grind it out game.”
Gonzaga made 45 percent of its shots, including half of its 24 attempts in the second half.
Meanwhile, Memphis shot 35 percent for the game after a poor first half.
“We are going to be in games where we are not making every shot,” Jackson said, “but we made the ones that counted.”
Memphis struggled with Gonzaga’s inside game until the middle stages of the second half. The 7-foot-1 Karnowski used his height advantage to get post position on the smaller Memphis frontline.
But down the stretch, Memphis got to the basket and the free throw line with its quick senior guards.
“That’s where we had most of our success,” Few said of the Zags post play. ”(Memphis) amped it up some, fronted a little harder and made the entry passes a little harder.”
Gonzaga led 25-22 at the break in a half that saw tight defense for both teams leading to low shooting percentages, particularly for Memphis.
The Tigers were 9 of 34 from the field for 26 percent. Gonzaga was better at 41 percent.
Coleman came off the bench for 10 points to lead the Zags in the first half. Crawford connected on a pair of late 3-pointers in the half to collect nine for Memphis before the break.
Gonzaga scored the first five points of the second half, and extended the lead to 10 at 38-28 when Karnowski hit consecutive baskets near the 16-minute mark.
The lead would stretch to a dozen before Memphis would answer.
Memphis chipped away at the advantage, cutting it to 44-42 with 8:16 left, but that wasn’t enough as Gonzaga kept the lead, stretching it back to nine. Memphis got to within 52-50 on Dixon’s drive at the under 4-minute timeout.
It wasn’t until another drive by Dixon with 1:11 left that the Tigers took the lead. That was part of winning stretch for the Tigers, who ended Gonzaga’s seven-game winning streak.
“I kept saying: ‘Guys, we’ve got to chip away. Do not give up any 3s. We’re going, at some point, get going offensively,’” Pastner said. “And we scored enough.”