Gonzaga-Loyola Marymount Preview
Three upsets last week of teams in the top 5 drew Gonzaga’s attention.
Avoiding one of its own this week likely provided a wake-up call.
Though they’ll try for an 11th straight victory overall and against Loyola Marymount, the third-ranked Bulldogs won’t take anything for granted on Saturday in Los Angeles.
Gonzaga (17-1, 6-0 West Coast Conference) moved up three spots in the AP Poll ahead of Duke, Wisconsin and Louisville, which all lost on the road last weekend. While the Bulldogs benefited from those defeats, they were also served notice they’re not immune from such a fate.
Expecting a serious challenge Thursday, Gonzaga got one before it even reached Pepperdine, arriving 25 minutes before tipoff because of terrible local traffic caused by an accident. The predicament didn’t appear to initially bother the Bulldogs, who shot 69.6 percent and led by nine at the break.
However, the improved Waves opened the second half on a 15-7 run and closed within one point on three occasions before Gonzaga held on for a 78-76 victory.
”It was a good test for us,” said leading scorer Kyle Wiltjer (16.8 points per game), who recorded 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. ”We were a little down we won by so small, but we’re going to have a lot of close games.”
Freshman Domantas Sabonis added 18 with a season-high 12 boards for the Bulldogs, who are tied with No. 12 Notre Dame for the nation’s top field-goal percentage (53.0) and shot 56.9 percent Thursday. However, they went 14 of 33 from the free-throw line.
”A lot of them were close, rattled in and out,” said guard Kevin Pangos, an 85.0-percent free-throw shooter who missed two of his four attempts and finished with nine points after averaging 16.3 in the previous six contests.
Thanks to the 6-foot-10 Sabonis, Gonzaga held an 18-2 advantage in second-chance points.
The Bulldogs could dominate the offensive boards again in facing a Loyola Marymount team that ranks eighth in the 10-game league allowing 10.7 offensive rebounds per game.
Seven-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski had 11 points and four offensive rebounds as Gonzaga held a 17-6 advantage on the offensive glass during an 86-67 home win over LMU in the team’s most recent meeting Feb. 15. Karnowski (11.1 ppg) averaged 18.3 points in three games prior to finishing with seven while being limited to 20 minutes because of foul trouble Thursday.
Gonzaga has won its last six with LMU (5-13, 1-5) by at least 10 points.
The Lions snapped a five-game skid with an 80-68 victory over Portland on Thursday. Ayodeji Egbeyemi scored a career-high 22 points and Marin Mornar added 21 with 10 rebounds as LMU shot 51.0 percent.
"There were a lot of positives from the entire lineup," coach Mike Dunlap said.
After being held out of last Saturday’s 85-72 loss at BYU for reasons Dunlap wouldn’t disclose, LMU guard Evan Payne (19.2 ppg), the WCC’s third-leading scorer, matched a season low with seven points in 23 minutes off the bench Thursday.
Payne totaled 36 points but had nine turnovers in two games against Gonzaga in 2013-14.
LMU, which lost 80-53 to then-No. 11 Wichita State in Hawaii on Dec. 22, has dropped four straight against Top 25 teams. The other three came against the Bulldogs.