Bell leads way as No. 3 Gonzaga beats Loyola Marymount
Gary Bell Jr. broke out of a three-game single-digit scoring slump, and Gonzaga turned it up on the defensive end to complete a weekend sweep in Los Angeles.
Bell Jr. led four players in double figures with 17 points and the third-ranked Zags pulled away in the second half to beat Loyola Marymount 72-55 Saturday for their 11th straight win over the Lions.
"I finally got some shots to go," Bell Jr. said. "My teammates were looking for me."
Kevin Pangos added 16 points and six assists, Bryon Wesley had 14 points and Kyle Wiltjer 12 points for the Zags (18-1, 7-0 West Coast). They’ve won 10 in a row since their only loss in overtime to Arizona on Dec. 6.
The Zags’ free throw shooting was much improved after their 14-of-33 effort in a two-point win at Pepperdine on Thursday. They were 12 of 16 against the Lions and shot 52 percent from the field.
"It’s always good to come on the road and gut out two wins," said Wesley, a transfer from Southern California. "Our defense is our staple. When we come and play defense, we’re able to get a lot of good shots on the offensive end."
Ayodeji Egbeyemi scored 14 points and Petr Herman had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Lions (5-14, 1-6).
The Lions played spirited defense, but their 29 percent shooting let them down as they missed open shots or had others rim out.
"That’s a different kind of zone, so on short preparation our guys did a great job," Zags coach Mark Few said.
The Zags raced to a 20-2 lead, with Wiltjer, Wesley and Bell combing to score all their points. LMU missed its first five shots and had two turnovers, putting the Lions in catch-up mode the rest of the way.
"We fought back and had a chance but made mistakes, and you can’t make mistakes against a team that good," said Evan Payne, who had 11 points, well under his leading 19.2 average for the Lions.
LMU cut its deficit to seven points twice early in the second half, the second time on a 3-pointer by Herman. But the Zags already had their 3-point shooting in high gear after Pangos hit consecutive 3s to open the half. Bell then launched them on a 21-8 run with a trey. Pangos added another 3 and Bell hit another in the spurt that extended Gonzaga’s lead to 65-45.
"When we cut it down to seven, I felt like we had a chance," Egbeyemi said. "We were ready. We just can’t spot a great team like that 18 points. It’s hard to come back after that."
Payne went down in the corner near his team’s bench midway through the second half and returned two minutes later, but had just two free throws in the second half.
"I was driving to basket, went up for a little floater and got an elbow in the hip," Payne said. "Next time down, I turned a little bit and felt a sharp pain. I just had to lay down because it was too painful."
In the first half, the Lions slowly got going, helped by 3-pointers from Herman and Egbeyemi, while the Zags started missing. Gonzaga rebuilt its 18-point lead on five straight points by Pangos before the Lions ran off seven straight to end the half trailing 38-27.
Gonzaga: Pangos made four 3-pointers, moving him ahead of Richie Frahm into second place on the career 3-point list with 283. The senior from Canada is five away from tying career leader Blake Stepp. … The Zags are the highest ranked team to ever play at Gersten Pavilion.
LMU: The Lions wore black uniforms at home for the first time ever after debuting them on the road last week. … Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was among the NBA scouts attending.
LMU coach Mike Dunlap got his first taste of the WCC’s top team. He came to the college ranks from the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.
"You make a couple of mistakes against a top 10 team you pay for it," Dunlap said. "We had open looks and they didn’t go down."
The Zags enjoyed their quick trip to LMU’s campus, not far from their hotel near LAX airport. They were still marveling at Thursday’s ride to Pepperdine, which took over two hours and caused them to arrive 25 minutes late because of an accident that tied up the Pacific Coast Highway.
"LA traffic is one of a kind," Bell Jr. said.
Gonzaga: host Saint Mary’s on Thursday.
LMU: at Santa Clara on Thursday.