It’s hard to find an opponent that Gonzaga has never defeated.
But that will be the situation Saturday at the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix, when the No. 5 Bulldogs face No. 25 Texas Tech in a matchup of the past two NCAA Tournament runners-up.
The Red Raiders have won all three previous meetings, the most notable coming in the Elite Eight of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, when they prevailed 75-69 in Anaheim, Calif.
“(Gonzaga’s) record and their program speaks for itself,” said first-year Texas Tech coach Mark Adams, who was an assistant coach in 2019 when the Red Raiders reached the NCAA title game before falling to Virginia.
“Nothing against Virginia, but we feel like Gonzaga might have been the toughest team we played (that year). That game we played extremely well and basically just outscored Gonzaga. We’ll have to have that kind of performance this Saturday.”
The Red Raiders (8-1) moved into the Top 25 after a 57-52 overtime victory against then-No. 13 Tennessee on Dec. 7 at the Jimmy V Classic in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Terrence Shannon Jr. had 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds in that game.
Texas Tech never trailed in defeating visiting Arkansas State 75-62 Tuesday as Kevin McCullar scored 21 points. Shannon didn’t play in the second half because of recurring back spasms.
“We always celebrate the victories,” McCullar said. “This was a dogfight, but we will come in and clean some things up.”
Gonzaga (8-2), which opened the season ranked No. 1 before losses to then-No. 5 Duke and No. 16 Alabama, has been idle since an 80-55 victory against visiting Merrimack and its zone defense on Dec. 9.
The Zags were scheduled to play in-state rival Washington last Sunday, but the game was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Huskies’ program.
That left Gonzaga with eight days between games.
“I think we need to really use it to kind of work on individual stuff, get better at shooting and getting stronger with the ball. Defensively moving our feet,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “Then you get to sprinkle in (game preparation) earlier than usual, because playing against Tech is much like playing against (Merrimack), it’s not something you face and it’s tough to simulate that defense.”
The Red Raiders are No. 7 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency in KenPom’s ratings, while the Zags are No. 2 on offense.
Texas Tech’s “no-middle” defense, designed to prevent opponents from dribbling into the lane, is similar to what Baylor used when beating Gonzaga 86-70 in last spring’s NCAA title game.
The Zags are led by preseason All-American Drew Timme and freshman 7-footer Chet Holmgren, considered a potential No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA draft.
“We’ve got a heck of a test coming (Saturday) against a really high-level opponent,” Few said. “They’re probably one of the best defensive teams in the country, year in and year out. It’s Coach Adams’ defense that Tech’s been running all these years, they’ve been successful. So, we’ll need to prepare for that game and then work on ourselves.”
–Field Level Media