LOS ANGELES – Loyola Marymount men’s basketball coach Max Good surveyed the stat sheet and liked what he saw for the most part.
“If you had told me (Robert) Sacre was going to go 1 for 6 and (Steven) Gray 5 for 16, I would have liked my chances,” Good said. “But it’s a sign of a good team that they have other guys. (Sam) Dower goes 4 of 4 and (David) Stockton was the key player in this game.”
Gonzaga led by 13 points in the first seven minutes and was on top by 14 early in the second half, but the mistake-prone Bulldogs needed eight free throws late to preserve a 67-57 victory Thursday in front of 2,964 at Gersten Pavilion.
“Who cares?” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the sloppy nature of the win. “Anyway you can get a road win, it’s a great thing for us. We went in with the mindset this was going to be a tough, hard-fought scrap and it was. We won it with our rebounding and defense, and we stepped up and made free throws at the end.”
The Bulldogs (16-9, 6-3 WCC) are in third place alone after Santa Clara (5-4) lost to conference-leading Saint Mary’s (9-1). San Francisco (7-2) stayed in second place with a win over San Diego.
LMU (9-16, 1-9), playing without leading scorer and rebounder Drew Viney, who hasn’t been cleared by the training staff after suffering migraine headaches, still gave Gonzaga fits, despite committing 19 turnovers. Gonzaga’s 20 turnovers went a long way toward keeping LMU within striking distance.
The Bulldogs had the better of it in most key statistics. They shot better (43 percent to LMU’s 35), they won the boards (39-31), assists (15-11) and steals (13-10), but LMU made the Bulldogs work to the final buzzer to earn their second WCC road win.
“It was sloppy, but it’s nice to have one of those and pull out a road win,” Gray said. “If we played a game like that earlier this season, it’s not very likely we would have won. That’s how LMU plays. They take you out of a lot of stuff, they’re physical and it’s hard to prepare for something like that. They just go at you and go at you.”
Gray, battling an unsettled stomach, left the court briefly in the first half after colliding with a Lions player in pursuit of a rebound. He said he felt fine afterward, but noted during the game that he “couldn’t go very long without feeling sick.”
He still played 31 minutes and led GU with 15 points, including a key bucket after he fouled LMU’s Larry Davis on a 3-point attempt. Davis made all three free throws to trim Gonzaga’s lead to 54-51 with 4:26 remaining. At the other end, Gray drove inside but had his shot rejected and he winced in pain after a hard landing. Seconds later, he split two defenders and scored from 6 feet while being fouled. He made the free throw and GU led by six.
Marquise Carter’s basket in the lane restored a six-point lead and the Bulldogs finished it out at the free-throw line. Stockton made 4 of 4, Carter 2 of 2 and Harris 2 of 2 in the final 2:06.
“Marquise and Stocks did a good job of taking care of the ball and getting us a ‘W’ down the stretch,” Few said.
They played a key role throughout. Carter finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists. Stockton had 11 points – 6 of 6 free throws – four steals and three assists.
Gonzaga bolted in front 18-5 and it looked like the rout was on, but a rash of turnovers, many unforced, and Davis’ 13-point effort off the bench brought the Lions within 29-27 with 3:10 remaining. With LMU packed in a zone defense, Stockton swished a 3-pointer from the corner and then the freshman point guard made a steal near midcourt and drove for a layup. Dower, who had nine points in nine first-half minutes, added a three-point play and GU’s lead was back to 10.
Sacre had a rough shooting night but contributed nine points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Elias Harris added 10 points and seven boards and Dower chipped in nine points.
“A win’s a win, we’ll take it any way we can,” Sacre said. “It’s kind of disappointing we didn’t put the game out of reach, but we kept our heads and we got the victory.”