The latest victory in Gonzaga’s five-game winning streak looked a lot like the first four. Junior post Graham Ike controlled the lane and led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points, his fourth consecutive game with at least 20. The starting five all posted solid numbers, including Nolan Hickman’s four 3-pointers and 19 points, and Ben Gregg, who was a prep standout at Clackamas High about 20 miles down the road, added three 3s and 13 points, all in the first half.
That leaves two viable candidates in redshirt sophomore guard Vukasin Masic and 6-foot-8 freshman guard Tyler Harris. The nod goes to Masic, who has been a fixture in the starting lineup while Harris, one of the top freshmen in the conference, is just returning from an ankle injury. Masic, a Serbian native, has good size (6-5 and 210 pounds), is a capable ballhandler (leads the Pilots in assists in conference at 3.7) and connects on a team-leading 39.6% beyond the 3-point arc.
Gonzaga's four-game closing stretch begins Thursday against Portland, which won’t generate nearly as much hoopla as Saturday’s contest against Santa Clara or next week’s road swing against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, but the outcome matters a great deal.
Gonzaga continues to move up, ever so slightly, in the eyes of AP Top 25 voters and NCAA Tournament bracket gurus.The Zags weren’t in the field of 68 in bracket projections two weeks ago after falling to Saint Mary’s 64-62 at home. A four-game winning streak has the Zags showing up in an increasing number of brackets and nearing a return to the AP Top 25.
Andrew Nembhard played in a lot of games at The Kennel in his two seasons at Gonzaga, but Saturday was his first time as a spectator. The reason the former Zag standout point guard was in town: To get a close-up view on one of his favorite players, younger brother Ryan guide Gonzaga’s offense.
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.