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 in Los Angeles.
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, a senior guard 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 4 1/2 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.”
Santa Clara 70, San Francisco 64: Brandon Clark had 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Jared Brownridge added 18 points and the Broncos beat the Dons at Santa Clara, California.
Kruize Pinkins had 16 points to lead the Dons.
Pepperdine 67, Portland 63: Shawn Olden scored 15 points and Jeremy Major added 14 more to lead the Waves over the Pilots in Malibu, California.
Kevin Bailey led Portland with 28 points.
Pacific 59, San Diego 57: T.J. Wallace scored 22, including a three-point play that gave Pacific the lead for good with 40 seconds left, to help the Tigers beat the Toreros at Stockton, California.
Johnny Dee paced San Diego with 20 points, including 11 of the Toreros’ final 12 points.
Saint Mary’s 82, BYU 77: Brad Waldow finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds and Garrett Jackson added 20 points and nine boards to power the Gaels over the Cougars at Moraga, California.
Tyler Haws had a game-high 28 points for BYU.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.