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Gary Bell Jr. finds his shot as No. 3 Gonzaga rides balanced offense to victory at LMU

Bell, Pangos, Wesley, Wiltjer hit double figures as Bulldogs win 11th straight over Lions

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 17, 2015

Loyola Marymount's Marin Mornar, left, fouls Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr. The GU guard scored a team-high 17 points on Saturday. (AP)
Loyola Marymount's Marin Mornar, left, fouls Gonzaga's Gary Bell Jr. The GU guard scored a team-high 17 points on Saturday. (AP)

LOS ANGELES – Welcome back, Gary Bell Jr.’s shooting stroke, Gonzaga’s defense, free-throw accuracy and a fairly comfortable West Coast Conference road victory.

Bell ended a lengthy scoring slump with 17 points, his most since dropping 18 on St. Joseph’s in the third game of the season, as the third-ranked Zags shut down Loyola Marymount 72-55 in front of 4,026 Saturday at Gersten Pavilion.

Gonzaga (18-1, 7-0 WCC) limited the Lions (5-14, 1-6) to 29 percent shooting en route to its 11th consecutive victory.

Bell offered a wide smile when asked about his 5-of-9 field-goal shooting and 4-of-4 effort at the free-throw line. He made 3 of 6 3-pointers.

“Finally got some shots to go in,” said Bell, who had reached double figures once in the previous 10 games. “I feel like I’ve been doing everything right and finally seeing the ball go in was nice. I’ve been in a slump before but nothing like this. It’s nice to get it out of the way.”

Good timing, too, as the Zags entertain Saint Mary’s on Thursday. The teams share the top spot in the WCC.

Gonzaga was solid at both ends of the court, two days after its defense was worked over for most of the second half by Pepperdine. LMU managed just 17 field goals and was ice cold from long distance (5 of 21 on 3-pointers), despite piling up 19 offensive rebounds.

“Coach (Mark Few) wasn’t pleased with our effort last game,” senior Byron Wesley said. “We worked on our defensive concepts in (Friday’s) practice and did a much better job.”

Ayodeji Egbeyemi’s 14 points led LMU, which ranks 268th out of 345 Division I teams in scoring offense.

“It’s a pattern we’ve had,” Lions coach Mike Dunlap said. “We’ve gone into the desert, as (Louisville coach Rick) Pitino would say. We’re offensively challenged at times.”

Senior guard Kevin Pangos made four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points and six assists. He has 283 career 3s and moved past Richie Frahm into second place on GU’s all-time list. His six assists propelled him past Matt Bouldin into sole possession of fifth place. He also joined Frahm in a tie for 10th on the scoring list.

Pangos said the milestones will be nice down the road. He was more eager to discuss Bell’s performance.

“He was aggressive,” Pangos said. “I love that Gary Bell when he’s looking to score. And he always takes all good shots.”

Wesley’s contributions occupied several columns on the stat sheet. He had 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, four assists and a block. He had company as Kyle Wiltjer added 12 points, five assists and four rebounds and Domantas Sabonis chipped in nine points and eight boards.

“I wasn’t really pleased with my effort (against Pepperdine),” Wesley said. “I felt I could have been lot more active, so I focused on doing the little things and playing hard every play. When I do that, good things happen.”

The Zags, 14 of 33 at the free-throw line Thursday, made 12 of 16. Wesley hit both of his attempts.

“I really think that was an aberration,” Few said. “If Kevin is missing them, the moon isn’t orbiting the earth properly. I was happy for (Wesley). He’s responded really well, both after Arizona and (Pepperdine) so he’s pretty tough mentally.”

Gonzaga, much like its previous four WCC road games, flirted with the idea of blowing the game wide open in the first half. The Bulldogs bolted in front 14-0 and 20-2 after back-to-back 3-pointers by Wiltjer and Wesley with 13:56 left.

LMU closed within 38-27 at half as Gonzaga endured dry spells of 41/2 and 3 minutes. The Lions trailed by seven early in the second half when Bell’s 3 started a 16-4 run.

“We had moments where we relaxed a little,” Pangos said, “but overall we kept a good cushion.”

The Zags led by 20 with 3 minutes left when Few began removing his starters.

UPDATE: Added Jim Meehan’s game story

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