Gonzaga and Loyola Marymount have done this before.
Same building, same first half played on even terms, same second-half domination by the Bulldogs.
This time, Gonzaga scored 19 of the first 26 points in the second half and pulled away for a 79-59 men’s basketball victory over the Lions in front of another sellout crowd of 6,000 Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. A year ago, Gonzaga broke away from a halftime tie to win 85-69.
The Bulldogs’ ninth straight win was mostly an inside job. GU (13-5, 3-0 WCC) had a 46-16 edge in points in the paint, led by Robert Sacre’s 18 and Elias Harris’ 14. Steven Gray scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half, including seven in the 19-7 run that finally gave Gonzaga some breathing room.
The bench did its part with David Stockton hitting three free throws in the middle of Gonzaga’s run and Mathis Keita adding seven points, two assists and a steal.
“I don’t think people realize how good a win that is. That’s a very tough hard-nosed team,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We had to deal with some foul trouble and we got through it. That is one of the teams picked to win the league, so to beat them by 20 in the second half is a great sign.”
It was tied at 33 at half, though the stats seemed to paint a different picture. LMU’s shooting percentage hovered in the 20s most of the way while Gonzaga was threatening 50 percent. The Lions had twice as many turnovers (seven) as assists (three), but they worked the boards (24-17) and wore a path to the free-throw line (15 of 18).
“Good first half,” said coach Max Good, whose Lions lost in double-overtime at Portland on Thursday. “We didn’t shoot very well, but we grinded and guarded. In the second half, I don’t know if we wore down or got tired. They’re just big and powerful. They were pounding us inside.”
At both ends of the court. Sacre and Harris, who looked particularly energetic, were effective offensively throughout. They helped Gonzaga win the boards 22-16 in the second half. Sacre finished with five blocked shots.
“Most teams in the country don’t have the size we do,” Stockton said. “One thing I know I can do is just throw it to them every time and odds are they can make a play.”
Gonzaga led 49-40 when Sacre swatted Ashley Hamilton’s shot. Harris broke into the clear, but was fouled hard by LMU’s Tim Diederichs trying to finish the fast break. Diederichs was assessed an intentional foul and, after a brief dust-up, Harris was called for a technical foul.
Harris made 1 of 2 free throws. GU retained possession and Harris hit a floater in the lane as the Zags took their first double-digit lead.
“That’s kind of how Elias played last year, in attack mode,” Few said. “For some reason his aggressiveness has floated in and out this year, and I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the injuries initially.”
Gray and Sam Dower each had four points in an 8-0 burst that stretched Gonzaga’s lead to 69-50.
“They were getting a lot of their points with our fouls and bailing them out,” Gray said. “We tried to eliminate those and stay solid on defense and make them make those tough plays.”
The Bulldogs had a season-low eight turnovers. Eight different players contributed to GU’s 15 assists.
Sacre, who was 8 of 8 from the field Thursday, made 11 straight field goals, stretching back to early in the second half against Portland last Saturday, before missing a shot five minutes into the first half.
“There’s no such thing as perfect,” Sacre said with a wide grin. “Coach (Jerry) Krause told me that the other night.”
GU faces its first WCC road trip, against Santa Clara on Thursday and San Francisco on Saturday.