Moe Odum was our choice for key matchup prior to Gonzaga’s last game against Pacific, but Donovan Williams was probably the most impactful Tiger in a tightly contested game between teams that sit at opposite ends of the West Coast Conference spectrum.
LOS ANGELES – Will Johnston was somewhere on Gonzaga’s scouting report prior to Thursday’s game at Loyola Marymount, but the junior guard probably didn’t occupy one of the top few spots – even with the Lions down to just six scholarship players at Gersten Pavilion.
It took the better part of 32 minutes, but Gonzaga finally shook off a feisty Loyola Marymount squad that suited up just six scholarship players due to multiple injuries. Clinging to a one-point lead, Gonzaga rattled off 15 consecutive points and closed with a 19-3 spurt to pull away for a 91-74 West Coast Conference victory Thursday at Gersten Pavilion.
Dominick Harris, the former Gonzaga guard and current leading scorer for Loyola Marymount, occupied the key matchup space two weeks ago but his status is uncertain for Thursday’s GU-LMU game due to a knee injury. Keli Leaupepe, an accomplished fifth-year forward, would probably be next on the list but he’s sidelined with a torn plantar fascia. That leaves three candidates with similar stats: point guard Justice “Juice” Hill (10.6 points, 4.1 assists), guard Justin Wright (11.0 points, 47.6% from the field) and forward Alex Merkviladze (11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds).
Through it all, one thing the affable big man has never forgotten is how much love and support he’s received and continues to receive from the Gonzaga family, both during his time in Spokane, while he was rehabbing from his injury and now, in his rookie season.