Sooner or later, Gonzaga was going to have one of those nights.
A night when the shots don’t fall. When the outside shots are more often than not clanging off the rim instead of finding the net.
It happened Thursday night at Loyola Marymount. And in our living rooms via ESPN2.
And yet the Zags raised their record to 24-2 (11-0 in West Coast Conference play), riding a 9-0 run when the game was in doubt en route to a 73-60 win.
Describing the Bulldogs’ first tight game this month was the same duo who recently called the rout of BYU, Dave Feldman doing the play-by-play and Dan Dickau as the analyst.
What they saw …
• The Zags hit their final six shots from the floor and they still shot just 46 percent for the game. This from a team that came in shooting almost 53 percent, best in the nation.
The Lions were even worse, at 39 percent, but that’s to be expected from a team with offensive limitations.
Dickau mentioned it midway through the first half, but Loyola Marymount was a three-man team.
James Batemon, Dameane Douglas and 7-foot-3 post Mattias Markusson combined for the Lions’ first 26 points. It wasn’t until Petr Herman scored on a post move at the 2-minute, 20-second mark that another Loyola player had a point.
The Zags weren’t much better, with Josh Perkins, Corey Kispert, Zach Norvell and Geno Crandall a combined 1 for 11 at the half.
It was Rui Hachimura (22 points overall) and Brandon Clarke (17) who carried GU in this one.
“Gonzaga’s backcourt must play better in the second half,” Dickau said as it started.
It did, though only barely. Norvell finished with 13 points, hitting half of his eight shots, but Kispert, Crandall and Perkins finished a combined 3 of 14 from the floor.
• They may have seen the foundation for the late second-half blitz being built in the first 20 minutes, but Feldman certainly didn’t mention it.
“The first half went tremendous if you are a Loyola Marymount fan,” Feldman said heading into the break. “Yes … you’re losing by one point to Gonzaga, but whoo, you’re pretty happy with that.”
At that point, he and Dickau hadn’t mentioned how Gonzaga was staying in the game. The Zags were getting to the line and putting the Loyola starters in foul trouble.
Gonzaga was 12 of 13 from the line in the opening half. The Bulldogs may have been shooting a season-low 32 percent from the floor, but they made up for it at the line. That continued in the second half, as they finished 21 of 22.
The Lions were dealing with early foul trouble. Jeffrey McClendon had three. Douglas and Batemon, the two guys who make the Lions’ offense go, both had two. Each were limited somewhat early on as Loyola Marymount failed to extend a lead.
What we saw …
• A slowly paced game doesn’t have to be boring, but it certainly has a better chance of putting the late-night – this one started after 8 p.m. – college basketball watcher asleep.
Or maybe the third-ranked team in the nation. At times it looked as if the Zags were waiting for their wake-up call – on both ends of the court.
“Gonzaga just seems out of synch both offensively and defensively,” is how Dickau described it.
It was, quite simply, what Loyola Marymount wanted. The Lions’ offense was the lullaby – it took its time on most possessions – but it was the defense that served as the sleeping pill.
First in transition. The Bulldogs, according to the official stats, had no fastbreak points.
When they did get the ball in the front court, Loyola Marymount limited them to tough shots and a handful of second-chance attempts.
Mixing man and zone, and being physical in both, they made the Zags think before they attacked. Even when the decisions were the right ones, the poor shooting negated the effort.
• Meanwhile, the Lions attacked the offensive glass. Not only did they outrebound Gonzaga 36-35 (the Bulldogs had many of theirs late in the game), they had 15 offensive rebounds, leading to an 18-2 edge in second-chance points.
Despite the presence of shot-blockers Hachimura and Clarke, the Lions scored 38 points in the paint.
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