It’s hard to say when Gonzaga’s 76-46 rout of visiting Loyola Marymount was actually over – as opposed to being finished – but it certainly was some time in the first half.
Maybe it was after the Bulldogs scored the game’s first 17 points.
Or maybe it was even before that, when LMU learned guard Steven Haney was out for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his leg. Or whenever Lions coach Mike Dunlap decided to bench leading scorer James Batemon for an undisclosed reason.
No matter when it was, it meant Thursday night’s SWX crew – Greg Heister, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox – had to fill a lot of time as the Zags (24-4, 14-1 in West Coast Conference play) were never threatened.
They were up to it.
What they saw …
Early on, they saw the ninth-ranked Bulldogs hitting on all cylinders while building a 24-point first-half lead. Of course, without Haney, who had 22 points in the first meeting between the teams, and Batemon, who averages almost 17 points a game, the Lions were going to struggle to score.
“There just isn’t enough offense for the Lions,” Fox said midway through the first half. “It makes it curious that Batemon’s not in the game at all.”
Heister had shared the Haney news before the game but admitted from the opening tip they had no idea why Batemon was sitting. He did say the junior guard had participated in the pregame walk-through and seemed ready to go.
Being that Gonzaga had prevailed by 19 points in Los Angeles, the missing duo probably wouldn’t have been the difference from a win/loss standpoint, but their absence did have an effect on how the Zags dealt with Loyola (8-18, 3-12).
Despite the early breakaway, Gonzaga allowed the Lions to hang around for longer than it should have, mainly because it kept firing away from the outside – with little success.
“Force the issue a little bit, have a little bit more patience, don’t take those early 3s if you don’t have to,” Fox said midway through the opening half, a sentiment that was echoed by assistant coach Donny Daniels in his halftime interview.
The Zags were 4 of 15 beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes and 7 of 24 overall.
Still, with two of Loyola’s top scorers out, it obviously was going to be easier for GU.
“That’s an impressive start for Gonzaga,” Dickau noted when it was 17-0, and it only got worse from there.
What we saw …
The second half, when the Zags built the lead to as many as 33 points, became a time of discussion for different subjects.
Dickau and Heister batted around the use of analytics at the college level, with Dickau bemoaning the fact many programs discourage the midrange game and rely on either layups or 3-pointers.
All three talked about Zach Norvell Jr.’s occasional use as a point guard and whether the redshirt freshman is up to the task.
“He’s a player who can play it in stretches,” said Dickau, who was an All-American at the position.
“At 6-5, it gives you some added size from the point guard position (and) allows GU to go bigger all over the floor,” Fox added.
There was a fun stretch when the McCarthey Athletic Center crowd tried to do the wave and, according to Dickau – we didn’t have video proof – Heister and Fox joined in.
There was the scare factor injected as well, when Killian Tillie dove for a loose ball and his neck made contact with Eli Scott’s right knee.
Tillie, one of six Gonzaga players averaging in double figures, took a while to get up. He left the court, was gone for a little more than 3 minutes of game action, then returned to the court – and the game.
As Gonzaga heads down the regular-season stretch trying to win another WCC title, losing the 6-foot-11 Tillie for any time would be tough to take.
“That’s really been the difference for Gonzaga particularly in league,” Fox said in the second half as once again the competitiveness waned. “There is no one in the conference that can match up with (GU’s) talent level and depth up front.”
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