No. 3 Gonzaga renews rivalry with Arizona in Maui
For much of the past two decades, Gonzaga and Arizona have battled for the unofficial title of Best Team on the West Coast.
They'll renew their rivalry on Tuesday in the middle of the Pacific in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
The Wildcats have won five of the teams' eight meetings since 2000, while the Zags won the most recent match-up, 69-62 in 2015.
But the most memorable game in the series occurred in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament when Arizona outlasted the Bulldogs 96-95 in a double-overtime classic.
In Maui on Monday, the No. 3 Zags (4-0) got a scare from Illinois in the late going before prevailing 84-78, while the Wildcats (4-0) trailed Iowa State by 10 with 11 minutes remaining before going on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 56 with 5:11 left. Arizona knocked off the Cyclones 71-66.
Arizona's defense was a key to the comeback. The Cyclones shot 34.5 percent in the second half after leading 36-27 at the break.
"I'm just proud of our guys. I feel like today just showed how we loved each other as brothers," senior guard Justin Coleman said, according to the Arizona Daily Star. "It just shows the connection we have as a team because we got out-rebounded, we got down 10, but it showed the effort and the togetherness we had through adversity to get back and win the game."
Coleman had a season-high 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting to lead the Wildcats.
After three easy home wins to start the season, Arizona coach Sean Miller wasn't sure what kind of team he had.
Last November, the Wildcats lost all three of their games at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and he didn't want to see a repeat of that performance.
"You come to this tournament, you don't want to be the team that is 0-3 when they leave Maui," Miller said. "Every win here is a very hard one to get."
In the Maui nightcap, the Zags got off to a slow start for the second straight game.
In Thursday's 94-71 win over Texas A&M, Gonzaga found itself tied at 28 late in the first half before overwhelming the Aggies, outscoring them 62-28 over the next 22 minutes.
Against the Illini, Gonzaga took a seven-point lead into the break after a close first half and pushed its advantage to double digits for much of the second half before the Fighting Illini cut the lead to two on three separate occasions in the final five minutes.
The Zags committed 22 turnovers in the win.
"(The) 22 turnovers are definitely the most we've committed this year," forward Jeremy Jones said. "That's definitely something we need to clean up (against Arizona)."
Jones, a senior who hasn't played many minutes during his Gonzaga career, had career highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds and made two late free throws to put the game away.
"Jeremy was fantastic," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "That's the kind of story you root for as a coach. I couldn't be happier for Jeremy."
Updated November 20, 2018