Record-setting Gonzaga tries to keep pace against Loyola Marymount
LOS ANGELES – Gonzaga is flirting with history, both national and West Coast Conference, which can’t sit well with conference mates on the receiving end of blowout losses.
The third-ranked Zags (23-2, 10-0) have rolled every conference opponent, with only the first San Francisco matchup in doubt until the closing minutes. That’s also the only WCC game the Zags haven’t led by at least 20 at some point.
It adds up to a 31.1-point margin of victory, the highest by nearly four points in any Division I conference in two decades. The WCC record was set by the 2017 Zags, who posted a 26.2-point margin, even with a loss to BYU in the regular-season finale.
Next up is Loyola Marymount, which trailed Gonzaga by as many as 29 before falling 73-55 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Lions were one of just three opponents to keep the difference under 20.
The Lions (17-8, 5-6) are tied with Santa Clara for sixth place, but they have an opportunity to make some noise this week. They host the third-ranked Zags on Thursday and second-place BYU on Saturday at Gersten Pavilion.
LMU made a lot of noise early in the season. The Lions raced out to 8-0 and 11-1 records, both program bests, and they received a couple of votes in the Nov. 19 AP poll.
They surpassed last year’s win total of 11 with a victory over UC Davis in their most recent nonconference game. They’re just 5-6 since, with an 0-5 mark against the WCC’s top five teams.
Zach Norvell Jr. scored a team-high 17 points and the Zags shot nearly 51 percent in a low-possession game against the Lions in mid-January. The Zags committed 16 turnovers – their second-highest total of the season – but forced 17, capitalizing on 11 in the first half by scoring 20 points.
“They’ve got that bad taste in their mouth,” point guard Josh Perkins said. “They’re going to make adjustments; we’re going to make adjustments. We just gotta keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Gonzaga, which leads the nation in field-goal percentage (52.8), has a streak of eight straight games shooting at least 50 percent. The Zags are heating up from distance, hitting 44.8 percent of 3-pointers in their past four games.
“When teams can score on the inside and the outside, it just makes them a huge threat,” said Gonzaga junior forward Brandon Clarke, who leads the nation in shooting at 68.8 percent from the field.
Gonzaga dusted co-third place Saint Mary’s and San Francisco by a combined 78 points last week. The Zags handled BYU by 30 in Provo and fifth-place San Diego by 16 two weeks ago.
The Zags have 13 wins by 30 or more points, matching the 2017 squad for the most in program history.
Gonzaga has won 20 straight against LMU, with its most recent loss coming in 2010 in Los Angeles.