Gonzaga-Loyola Marymount Preview
Gonzaga is undefeated in the West Coast Conference, but that won't keep coach Mark Few from expecting the best from his team at all times.
Coming off a lackluster second half in their latest contest, the seventh-ranked Bulldogs seek a more complete effort while trying to hand host Loyola Marymount a fifth consecutive defeat Thursday night.
Since suffering a last-second 64-63 loss at ninth-ranked Butler on Jan. 19, Gonzaga (19-2, 6-0) has beaten BYU and San Francisco by a combined 34 points. However, Few was not entirely pleased after Saturday's 66-52 home win over the Dons. The Bulldogs shot 58.0 percent en route to building a 22-point halftime lead but went 8 of 27 (29.6 percent) in the final 20 minutes while being outscored 31-23.
"I didn't like the way we finished that game," Few said. "I think we let it slip. We can't feel good about the lead going from 20 to 14."
With a pair of road games in Southern California this week, Few has reason to be slightly concerned as Gonzaga tries to start 7-0 in the WCC for the first time since going undefeated in league play in 2008-09.
The Bulldogs have won five straight and 33 of 36 overall versus Loyola Marymount (8-12, 1-6), but those three defeats came in Los Angeles and the most recent was in 2010 over a Gonzaga team ranked 13th. The Lions have since lost their two home games in the series but led at halftime in a 62-58 defeat last season to a 21st-ranked Bulldogs squad.
Elias Harris scored 19 in that contest and is coming off his second straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds against San Francisco. Though the senior was not as productive after totaling 45 points in the previous two games, he's averaged 9.3 boards in the last four.
"He's been very, very engaged," Few said about Harris, who has averaged 15.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in seven games versus LMU. "He's been really dialed in. He's playing like an athlete and that's how he needs to play. He's doing a great job on the glass on both ends."
Seven-foot junior Kelly Olynyk was limited to 13 points Saturday after averaging 25.0 in his previous five games, including 26 versus BYU as he went 9 of 9 from the field and 8 of 8 at the free-throw line.
"Kelly Olynyk, as a freshman, looked like a lot of our guys," San Francisco coach Rex Walters said. "He changed his body over the course of three years. He's an NBA lottery pick."
Few hopes Harris and Olynyk will again be able to control the inside against a Loyola Marymount team that's been outrebounded in all but one of its league games.
Looking to avoid their first five-game skid since Jan. 13-29, 2011, the Lions have shot 35.9 percent and averaged 61.0 points while losing the last four by nine points or fewer. LMU has not played since blowing a seven-point, first-half lead and shooting 36.1 percent in a 60-57 home loss to Pepperdine last Thursday.
LMU's Anthony Ireland is second in the WCC averaging 20.0 points but has totaled 27 in the last two games on 8-of-29 shooting, including 3 for 20 from 3-point range. The junior guard went 9 of 15 from the field for 23 points in a 78-59 loss at Gonzaga on Feb. 11.