Gonzaga’s players used words such as having “chip on our shoulders” and “we owe them some payback” tonight when talking about Saturday’s showdown in Los Angeles with West coast rival Arizona Wildcats.
The eighth-ranked Bulldogs defeated Mississippi Valley State 97-63 before letting loose with their thoughts of a rematch with the 16th-ranked Arizona Wildcats, who won both games of a home-and-home arrangement the two previous years.
Arizona beat Gonzaga 66-63 in overtime at McKale Center two seasons ago. The Wildcats won at The Kennel in Spokane, Wash., last year, coming back from a 10-point halftime deficit to win 68-63.
“I think we should have won both those years,” Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins said tonight when interviewed by reporters. “The third time’s the charm. Like I said, we’ve got something for them. Send a message, Saturday.
“We feel like we owe them some payback. It’s been some years building up. Saturday’s a time for us to get back at them.”
Perkins and fellow guard Silas Melson each scored 15 points to lead the Bulldogs over Mississippi Valley State. In a postgame radio interview on Gonzaga’s IMG station, Melson said of the matchup with the Wildcats: “We’re really excited. The last two years we gave up the game twice. We’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder.”
Arizona also won a third-round game of the 2014 NCAA tournament over the Bulldogs 84-61.
That’s an 0-3 record against Arizona in the last three seasons. The Wildcats are 6-1 overall against the Bulldogs. Gonzaga’s lone win was a 71-60 victory on Dec. 17, 2011, in Seattle.
Arizona also had that classic double-overtime win over Gonzaga in the 2003 NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga 7’1″ senior center Przemek Karnowski did not play last year against Arizona because of a back injury that required surgery. He lost to the Wildcats in the two previous seasons.
“We were close the last two (games), so I think it’s time for us to get that winning pop going,” Karnowski said.
Gonzaga assistant coach Brian Michaelson was more diplomatic during his interview on the school’s IMG network after tonight’s game. He noted that Gonzaga has a quick turnaround after playing tonight, traveling tomorrow and playing at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time Saturday.
“Unfortunately, it’s a super short turnaround for us, but we can’t have any excuses,” Michaelson said. “We have to let it rip. We know what that game against Arizona means to our program. We have to have our best game to have a shot. They have the marquee program in the West.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.