Preview: No. 5 Gonzaga seeks to extend dominance over LMU
Fifth-ranked Gonzaga hasn’t lost at home to Loyola Marymount since 1991.
That was several years before the Bulldogs began their ascent to being a dominant program.
Gonzaga aims to record its 29th consecutive home victory over the Lions on Thursday when the two West Coast Conference programs square off in Spokane.
Loyola Marymount’s 91-79 win on Feb. 7, 1991, is a distant memory from an era before the Bulldogs began kings of the conference.
Things sure are different now. Gonzaga is 40-3 against the Lions during coach Mark Few’s 19 seasons as coach, and the Bulldogs have won the past 19 meetings.
Loyola Marymount (13-4, 1-2) is improved, and Few suspects the Lions might provide his team with a second straight test.
Gonzaga received an extreme challenge from San Francisco last Saturday before exploding on a game-ending 17-2 run to register a 96-83 road victory.
“We know coming in, we’re going to get every team’s best,” senior point guard Josh Perkins told reporters. “For us to execute like that down the stretch, there’s nothing better. To have those tests like that prepare us for big games in the future.”
The Bulldogs also received a welcome boost from junior forward Killian Tillie, who had 14 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes against the Dons in his third contest since returning from October’s ankle surgery.
“He really scored it well for such a short period of time,” Few said after the game. “He’s still trying to get his legs under him. I think that’s affecting his defense. … His production per minute was exactly what we needed and what he’s capable of doing.”
While Tillie is working his way back into form, junior forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke continue to lead the way for Gonzaga.
Clarke, who averages 17 points and a team-best 8.2 rebounds, had 24 points and nine rebounds against San Francisco. Hachimura scored 21 points for his 12th 20-point effort of the season and is averaging a team-best 20.8 points.
Perkins’ career assist total sits at an even 600. He joins Matt Santangelo (668 from 1996-2000) and Blake Stepp (640 from 2000-04) as the only players in program history to reach the milestone.
LMU got off to a strong 12-2 start before losing two of its last three games.
The Lions dropped a 71-60 decision to Saint Mary’s last Saturday despite sophomore forward Eli Scott (averages of 7.6 points and five rebounds) contributing 14 points and a season-best 12 rebounds.
Senior guard James Batemon leads the squad in scoring (17.9), assists (3.2) and steals (32). Junior center Mattias Markusson (11.2) is Loyola Marymount’s only other double-digit scorer and he also is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.2 per game.
The Lions allow just 61.2 points per game and have held nine opponents to 60 or fewer points. They have already surpassed last season’s win total from an 11-20 campaign.
“We’re building off the chemistry we had last year. We have more experience and maturity,” Batemon told wccsports.com. “We’re closing out games now. Last year we lost a ton of close games. Now, we’re finding a way to win.”
Loyola Marymount lost last season’s three meetings with the Bulldogs by an average of 21 points.
– Field Level Media