For the rest of the West Coast Conference, it’s probably pretty tiresome seeing Gonzaga claim the championship year after year.
Not for Gonzaga, which clinched at least a share of its ninth consecutive title with a 91-54 rout of Loyola Marymount in front of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs (20-5, 11-0 WCC) achieved a couple of other milestones. They’ve won at least 20 games the last 12 seasons and they’ll be the top seed at the conference tournament for the seventh straight year.
“There were a lot of quotes out there (that) this was the year we weren’t going to be able to get it done,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “It never gets old and I hope it never gets old to anybody in the community or our fans, because it’s a heck of an accomplishment by our players.”
The Zags took care of business early, building a double-digit lead less than 5 minutes in and hiking it to 23 late in the first half. Gonzaga led by as many as 37 in the second half.
Austin Daye and Micah Downs had 3-pointers in a 15-0 spurt that put GU on top 17-2. A 9-0 run late in the half, fueled by Downs’ 3-pointer and Josh Heytvelt’s four points and an assist, gave the Zags a 37-16 edge.
LMU (2-25, 1-10) had eight field goals and nine turnovers in the first half. The Lions, who rank last in Division I in scoring offense and field-goal percentage, needed a four-point play in the closing seconds to pull within 41-22 at the break.
Heytvelt and Daye combined for 21 points in the first half.
“They switched their defense a little bit since the last time we played them (in January) and we really wanted to exploit the inside play,” Heytvelt said.
Gonzaga’s Steven Gray equaled his career high with 23 points, 21 in the second half. The sophomore guard made 7 of 10 shots, 5 of 7 3-pointers and all four of his free throws. Heytvelt had 18 points, Downs chipped in 16 points and Daye added 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” said Gray, who was held to five points or less in four of the previous five games. “I’ve been getting extra shots up (in practice). It felt good to get things going.”
The Bulldogs doubled up LMU (54-27), with Gray scoring all eight points in an 8-0 run. All 11 available Zags played and nine scored.
Eight of Gonzaga’s 11 conference wins have been by double figures.
Two of the closer calls came last week in the Bay Area when the Zags won by two over Saint Mary’s and by five over San Francisco. Gonzaga thumped LMU 93-60 last month in Los Angeles.
“To accomplish a pretty big goal (WCC championship) in front of our home crowd is always big,” said senior guard Jeremy Pargo, who had six assists and four rebounds. “I think the fans deserve seeing things like that.”
Gonzaga made 50.8 percent of its field-goal attempts and 11 of 21 of its 3-pointers. The Bulldogs equaled their season high with 10 blocked shots for the fourth time. Downs, Gray and Will Foster each had two.
The Bulldogs allowed 17 offensive rebounds, but still won the boards 44-31.
“The reason (the score) got out of hand is because we did the right things,” Few said. “We played the way we’re supposed to play on both ends of the floor.”
Gonzaga can earn an outright WCC title for the eighth time in nine years with a victory over Pepperdine (8-19, 5-6 WCC) on Saturday.
Gonzaga 91, LMU 54
Percentages: FG .317, FT .583. 3-Point Goals: 7-24, .292 (Deric 0-1, Young 1-4, DuBois 2-7, Teel 2-3, Counts 1-3, Kanne 1-4, Sweezy 0-1, Reilly 0-1). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 1 (Armstead). Turnovers: 17 (Deric, Armstead, Young 3, DuBois 3, Teel 4, Counts, Kanne, Sweezy, Reilly). Steals: 10 (Armstead 2, Young 4, DuBois 3, Sweezy). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .524, FT .857. 3-Point Goals: 11-21, .524 (Daye 1-1, Heytvelt 0-2, Pargo 0-1, Bouldin 1-1, Downs 3-7, Sorenson 1-2, Gray 5-7). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 10 (Daye, Pargo, Bouldin, Downs 2, Gray, Foster 2, Brown 2). Turnovers: 16 (Daye 4, Heytvelt 2, Pargo, Bouldin 2, Downs, Goodson 2, Brown 3). Steals: 7 (Daye, Heytvelt, Pargo, Downs, Foster, Brown 2). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Gonzaga 41, Loyola Marymount 22. A–6,000.