Loyola Marymount-Gonzaga Preview
Though Gonzaga didn't have an entirely easy time earning two road wins last week, it's had little trouble maintaining its dominance at home.
The latter has certainly been the case against Loyola Marymount, which looks to avoid a 26th straight road loss to the surging third-ranked Bulldogs on Thursday night.
Gonzaga (24-1, 12-0 West Coast Conference) trailed near the midpoint of the second half at Santa Clara last Thursday and was tied after 29 minutes at San Francisco on Saturday, but the team regrouped and wound up shooting 58.5 percent in those contests to win both by a combined 25 points.
"We made winning plays," said senior guard Kevin Pangos, who scored 17 in the 81-70 victory over the Dons. "We executed at the end and got some stops. It was good. We'll need to do that in games. It's not always going to be comfortable leads."
Winners of 17 straight overall, the Bulldogs have looked extremely comfortable during their nation-leading 38-game home winning streak. They've won 33 straight WCC home contests after allowing an average of 53.4 points on 34.7 percent shooting while winning their five league games there this season by no fewer than 18 points.
The Bulldogs haven't lost at home to Loyola Marymount (8-17, 4-9) since Feb. 16, 1991, and have won the last four meetings in Spokane by at least 19 points.
Pangos, who scored 17 in last season's 86-67 home win over the Lions, has averaged 19.3 points on 21-of-35 shooting - 12 of 22 from 3-point range - in three games against the Lions in Spokane.
Backcourt mate Gary Bell Jr. scored a team-high 17, Pangos added 16 and transfers Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer combined for 26 as the Bulldogs raced out to a 20-2 lead during a 72-55 victory at Marymount on Jan. 17.
"You make a couple of mistakes against a top 10 team, you pay for it," said first-year LMU and former NBA coach Mike Dunlap, whose team shot 29.3 percent in that contest.
Wiltjer (16.4 points per game), who scored 12 but shot 5 of 7 against the Lions, totaled 51 points on 17-of-28 shooting and had 17 rebounds in the two games last week.
"He just adds a different dimension with that skill package he brings," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Though the Kentucky transfer is averaging 11.8 points at home in league play, that's likely more a product of Gonzaga's overall depth. Wiltjer leads four players averaging at least 10.7 points and six at 8.3 per game for the Bulldogs, who are the nation's top-shooting team at 53.2 percent.
"This team has guys who can score in different ways," Pangos said. "There are not so many role guys, as guys who can do everything."
Marymount saw that first-hand and expects this challenge to be tougher even though it's won two of three on the road.
"There is nothing you can tell (our players) to prepare (for) exactly what to expect, especially at the level of talent Gonzaga has right now," Dunlap told LMU's official website.
Lions guard Evan Payne averages a team-leading 17.8 points but had 11 on 4-of-15 shooting in the first meeting with the Bulldogs. He scored 17 at Gonzaga last season.