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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA vs. Gonzaga: The West Coast’s best rivalry

Courtesy Mike Christy
Arizona Wildcats guard Kadeem Allen (5) drives as Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) chases to defend during the first half of the No. 19 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 13 Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s NCAA college basketball game at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Arizona used a second-half comeback to win 68-63.

Arizona basketball travels to Los Angeles to face No. 8 Gonzaga at the STAPLES Center in the Hoophall LA game presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. These two programs can always promise a close, hard-fought game. Arizona won the last two matchups by a total of eight points.

Despite the close games the two schools have had, both had nothing but positive things to say about the other during the Hoop Hall conference call.

“We have had a great relationship with the UA,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. “I think Arizona is one of the most amazing at building and sustaining success. They’re versatile and athletic and [Arizona head coach] Sean [Miller] always has them as one of the tougher defensive teams in the country.”

Despite not being in the same conference, Arizona and Gonzaga seem to match up every season. Arizona and Gonzaga will face off for the fourth year in a row, with the Wildcats taking the last three matchups.

Former Gonzaga stars Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis are both in the NBA now, but Gonzaga is still a force to be reckoned with.

“They always have a tremendous frontline and they know how to put you in foul trouble,” Miller said.

With the blossoming rivalry set to resume Saturday, we take a look back at some of the more notable games in the series history.

2003: Arizona won this double-overtime thriller 96-95 in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. Wildcats Jason Gardner and Channing Frye each had 22 points while Luke Walton added 16 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals. Walton went toe-to-toe with future Los Angeles Laker teammate and Bulldog Ronny Turiaf and helped the top-ranked Wildcats get the win over Gonzaga.

2011: Arizona freshman Nick Johnson had 13 points and six assists in what was a rare loss to Gonzaga. Elias Harris had 25 points in a 71-60 win over Arizona. This loss was part of a forgettable season that saw the Wildcats go 23-12 and miss the tournament. This was also the last time Arizona missed the tournament in Miller’s tenure.

2014: Top-seeded Arizona met Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March and beat the Bulldogs handily to the tune of 84-61. Arizona’s freshmen phenoms Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon led the way as both contributed 18 points to stuff the stat-sheet.

Gordon had six rebounds, six assists and four steals, while Hollis-Jefferson had five rebounds, five assists and four blocks in the win.

2014: In what was the game of the year for Arizona, 40 minutes was not enough to determine a winner in this December matchup. Each team scored 27 points in the first half and 33 points in the second half in what was a seesaw affair in McKale Center. Byron Wesley had three free-throws to extend the game to double overtime but wound up missing all three in a 66-63 loss to Arizona, just a day after Oregon demolished the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Football Championship.

2015: Much like this year’s Michigan State game, Arizona fell behind early and looked on the verge of being blown out. The Wildcats battled back in the second half before beating Gonzaga on the road 68-63. Every time it looked Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer put the game out of reach, Gabe York or Allonzo Trier responded with baskets of their own.

Arizona erased a 14-point lead and came out on top in a tough win at Gonzaga.

Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.

Video courtesy of YouTube and Arizona Athletics.

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