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Top 25 foes collide in non-conference clash

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Updated: 2/08 10:09 am

Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - A late season, non-conference clash between a pair of Top 25 foes is on tap at FedExForum on Saturday night, as the 24th- ranked Memphis Tigers play host to the 23rd-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Mark Few's Bulldogs are once again cruising towards a West Coast Conference title, as they are sporting an 11-1 record in league play as part of an impressive 21-3 mark overall. Gonzaga comes into this contest with plenty of momentum, extending its current win streak to seven games with Wednesday's 71-66 victory over Portland.

Josh Pastner's Tigers aren't sitting atop the American Athletic Conference, but the team is still within striking distance at 7-3, good for third place in the league standings. Memphis has won five of its last six games and enters this matchup off of a 101-69 blasting of Rutgers on Tuesday.

Memphis holds a 5-2 advantage in the series with Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs were able to redeem themselves this week, as they avenged their only conference loss of the season with a five-point victory over Portland. Gonzaga jumped all over the Pilots early on, taking a 17-point lead into halftime (40-23) before holding on for the win. Four Bulldogs notched double figures in the game, as Kevin Pangos, David Stockton and Angel Nunez all tied for team-high honors with 13 points each. Sam Dower chipped in with 10, as Gonzaga shot a sizzling 56.5 percent from the floor in the first half, before cooling off over the final 20 minutes (35 percent).

Filing up the stat sheet hasn't been a problem for Gonzaga this season, as the team is averaging an impressive 78.9 ppg. The key has been efficiency, with the Bulldogs ranked fourth nationally at 50.3 percent from the floor overall. That mark is buoyed by a stellar 41.8 percent from behind the arc (second nationally). Pangos is the straw that stirs the drink in Spokane, leading Gonzaga in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and assists (4.1 apg). Dower (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) gives the team frontcourt balance. Gary Bell Jr. (11.9 ppg) provides perimeter depth, while big man Przemek Karnowski (9.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) does the same down low.

The Tigers flexed their offensive muscles against an overmatched Rutgers squad this week, as the 32-point margin of victory was the largest in nearly two years for Memphis. Six Tigers finished with double-digit scoring totals, as the team as a whole converted 12-of-19 from behind the arc and shot a sizzling .590 from the floor overall. Austin Nichols led the way with 18 points. Joe Jackson netted 16 points and doled out eight assists. Michael Dixon Jr. added 15 points, followed by Shaq Goodwin (13 pts), Chris Crawford (12 pts) and Geron Johnson (12 pts). Crawford completed a double-double with a game-high 11 rebounds.

Scoring has come easy for Memphis this season, with the team averaging a hefty 80.7 ppg on .485 accuracy from the floor. The Tigers also enjoy positive rebounding (+2.9) and turnover (+3.0) margins. Jackson is team's top scorer (14.6 ppg) and distributor (4.5 apg) and has really made foes pay for sending him to the free-throw line (101-of-125). Goodwin is the top frontcourt option at 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and shoots .618 from the field. Dixon adds 11.5 ppg to the mix, doing most of his work coming off the bench.

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