It was never in doubt, but that didn’t make the 88-43 win less impressive for the Gonzaga Bulldogs over the Loyola Marymount Lions on Thursday night. The Zags displayed a dominance on the road that great teams have to have as they continue to build momentum towards March. Every aspect of the Bulldogs’ team was rolling as they manhandled LMU and got a milestone win for head coach Mark Few.
The No. 7 ranked Zags pushed their record to 20-2 with the win, securing the 14th consecutive season with 20 or more wins for Few with the Bulldogs. The consistency that the small Jesuit school from Spokane has been able to win over Few’s tenure is stunning in and of itself, but the way the Zags got their 20th win was just as impressive.
The Lions came out in this game playing a zone defense to try and take away the size advantage of the Zags and keep the ball out of the hands of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris down low. Harris finished the first half with just four points, so it worked, but the Zags still found ways to pummel the over-matched LMU.
With the defense pressing down on the low post, it opened up the perimeter shooting, where the Zags took what LMU gave them and knocked down a season high 13 three-pointers, led by Gary Bell Jr. who finished with five of them to share the team lead in points for the game with 15. On his successful shooting night, Bell simply said “I was wide-open a lot,” and he took advantage.
Gonzaga also had a chance to show off its depth in this game. Junior guard Drew Barham, averaging just over six minutes a game this season, chipped in 14 minutes (second most of the season) and scored a season high 13 points with four rebounds and an assist. Few was able to empty the bench and get his starters some rest down the stretch, or as he politically put it, “This allowed us to really show our depth.”
Olynyk continued his strong play, scoring 15 points with six rebounds and a pair of blocks, but the other stars for the Zags had a relatively quiet night. Harris finished the night with just eight points, but he added four rebounds and three assists while Kevin Pangos had just three points. Part of it was they didn’t get many chances, combining for just nine shots and each playing just over 20 minutes. The other, and more important part for the Zags’ hopes for a deep run in March, is that they didn’t have to.
Gonzaga is getting excellent production from everyone and their rotation can run eight or nine men deep. There is an abundance of players waiting to step up if team’s try to take away their primary scorers. And they play a complete game as they showed last night by dominating the rebounding 46-31, had its bench outscore LMU’s 47-4, outscored the Lions 30-10 in the paint and held their opponent to just 25-percent shooting from the field while forcing 14 turnovers and holding Loyola to their lowest point total of the season.
As LMU’s leading scorer Anthony Ireland put it, “They’re a well-oiled machine,” and it’s a machine that is getting revved up to make a lot of noise this spring in the NCAA Tournament.