ANAHEIM, Calif. — The top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs won’t be able to outwit the third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday. Nor will they outhustle them. Or outclass them.
Gonzaga point guard Josh Perkins seemed to understand this when he offered up what sounds like the only path to victory in the Elite Eight matchup at the Honda Center.
“Hopefully in a way we out-ugly them,’’ Perkins said Friday.
Indeed, this will be no artistic masterpiece when Gonzaga and its top-scoring offense (88.8 points per game, best in the country) and Texas Tech and its suffocating defense (59.2 points, third fewest allowed in the country) collide with the winner advancing to the Final Four.
At its best, Gonzaga’s offense is a thing of beauty. But Texas Tech essentially carries spray paint cans to deface potential basketball masterpieces.
In its first three games of the NCAA tournament, Texas Tech has held its opponents — Northern Kentucky, Buffalo and Michigan — to 53 points per game. U-G-L-Y.
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“Listen, it’s going to be a really tough game,’’ Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It’s not going to be pretty, but we’ve got to enjoy the fight and embrace it.”
After practice Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs were bracing for more film study Friday night.
“There’s a lot to go over,’’ Gonzaga sophomore forward Corey Kispert said.
Gonzaga got a glimpse of the challenge ahead on Thursday night when it watched part of Texas Tech’s 63-44 victory over Michigan. Among the things the Bulldogs noted in person and later on film about the Red Raiders’ hard-charging defense:
— They force everything to the outside, limiting a team’s ability to create offensive flow down the middle.
— They play with active hands, which results in tipped balls and steals.
— They force opposing players to spots not conducive to scoring opportunities.
“Really, it’s just team swarming defense,’’ said Perkins, a senior. “So you’ve just got to take care of the ball and get shots on your terms and not fall in the trap areas where they want you to.’’
Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga’s junior forward, said he absorbed a lot while watching the second half of Texas Tech’s victory over Michigan.
“It was a really, really physical game in the paint,’’ he said. “I feel like Michigan lagged running in transition, which is something we’re going to want to do (Saturday). I just feel like they couldn’t really score on their late touches in the paint either and they weren’t shooting well from three. They were struggling to find ways to score. But I feel like that’s stuff that we’re great at as a team, so we should be fine.’’
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A ragged victory wouldn’t be Gonzaga’s first. Florida State disrupted Gonzaga’s offensive flow in the Sweet 16 before the Bulldogs responded with defensive pressure of their own and pulled away late for a 72-58 victory.
“It was an ugly game in a sense,’’ Perkins said, “so I think Texas Tech will have a familiar strategy.’’
Gonzaga will need a similar answer.