LOS ANGELES – Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams didn’t make every shot Saturday night against Loyola Marymount.
It just seemed like it. And he had a valid reason for a couple of his misses.
On one of his seven dunks, Williams took a blow to the head from an LMU player. The 6-foot-9 senior forward also lost a contact lens, which left him “playing blind” for a stretch of the second half. That might explain a bad misfire on a floater.
Williams was nearly unstoppable inside, pouring in 30 points to carry the 19th-ranked Zags to an 85-66 victory in front of 2,782, many wearing Gonzaga gear, at Gersten Pavilion.
“I was just in attack mode from the beginning to the end,” said Williams, who had a bit of a headache afterward. “I feel like that’s what the team needs from me.”
Williams, who made 13 of 18 shots, did quite a bit of damage against 7-3 sophomore center Mattias Markusson. Williams found open space when the Swedish native left to help on guards’ penetrating the lane. Williams also took Markusson away from the basket to create space to operate.
“Just face up and get him more to the wing and step out and use my quickness,” Williams said, “because I’m not going to back down a 7-footer.”
The Lions tried multiple defenders on Williams, but the big man kept delivering baskets.
“He’s an interesting guy,” LMU coach Mike Dunlap said. “He can take you on the block, can pound you on the boards and he can shoot a 3. He’s a pro, and everybody knows it.”
The Zags (14-3, 4-0 WCC) didn’t close out either half well, but they played some of their best basketball in the long stretches in between. Gonzaga took control after weathering four early 3-pointers by the Lions, who came in shooting just 31 percent from deep.
Williams had three straight dunks to force Dunlap to call a timeout. Rui Hachimura supplied instant offense, coming up with seven points in a 4-minute span as the Zags stretched the lead to 10.
Williams mixed in a couple of layups and an assist as Gonzaga took a 34-20 lead. The Zags got sloppy late in the half with turnovers and fouling on LMU’s dribble penetration. The Lions (5-10, 0-4) pulled within 46-41 at half.
Steven Haney kept the Lions close with five 3-pointers to match Williams’ 18 first-half points.
“We got a little casual on the offensive end, made some poor decisions, which led to fastbreaks and transition opportunities for Haney and they got back into it,” Zags coach Mark Few said.
GU regrouped at halftime and opened the second half with a decisive 17-0 run. The margin was 25 after a Williams’ putback.
The offense scored on seven of eight possessions. The defense smothered Haney, who missed his only two 3-point attempts and didn’t score for the first 17 minutes of the half. Josh Perkins spent extended minutes on Haney and stayed attached to the 6-6 wing.
“Just guarded him,” Few said of the second-half defense on Haney. “We were supposed to have attention when we got here an hour before the game. We guarded him.”
It wasn’t all Williams at the offensive end for the Zags. Perkins had 12 points and 10 assists, the most assists by a Zag since Matt Bouldin’s 10 versus Pepperdine in January 2009.
Zach Norvell Jr. scored 12 points and Hachimura added 11 points, five rebounds and two assists in just 18 minutes. The Zags shot 55.7 percent from the field, including 40 percent beyond the 3-point arc. Killian Tillie had three of GU’s eight blocked shots.
“The second half we did a great job with transition defense and we were really efficient on the offensive end and took away their 3s,” Few said.
Gonzaga shares first place with Saint Mary’s, which defeated San Diego 70-63.
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