The year was 2014. Gonzaga won the West Coast Conference by two games over San Francisco and BYU. Saint Mary’s was fourth, a rare finish outside of the top three.
The Bulldogs lost three conference games, including road contests at Portland and a month later at San Diego.
That marked the most recent time Gonzaga lost to a WCC opponent outside of the “Big Three” of GU, Saint Mary’s and BYU, the trio that has dominated the yearly standings, usually in that order.
The Zags have double-digit win streaks over the other seven conference schools, while Saint Mary’s and BYU have absorbed occasional stumbles.
So here comes another game before a big game. Loyola Marymount visits the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday before the Zags return to the Bay Area for the second straight week for Saturday’s showdown with Saint Mary’s.
No. 2 Gonzaga (23-1, 9-0 WCC) handled the Lions 87-62 nearly four weeks ago in Los Angeles. LMU (8-15, 2-7) hasn’t defeated the Zags in a decade, a span of 22 games. It’s Gonzaga’s second-longest WCC winning streak, trailing only a 38-game unbeaten run against Pepperdine.
Much has changed since the first meeting. Killian Tillie played nearly 29 minutes and Anton Watson was off to a fast start before his left shoulder popped out of place. Five days later. the Zags announced Watson would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
Tillie is back on the injury list after suffering a sprained left ankle last Thursday at Santa Clara. He missed the San Francisco game Saturday and head coach Mark Few declined to offer a timeline, saying Tillie’s status depends on how his ankle responds during the week.
With Tillie sidelined against the Dons, the Zags’ six-man rotation played all but four minutes. Reserve wing Martynas Arlauskas logged 3-plus minutes for the second straight game and walk-on Matthew Lang played the final seven seconds of the first half with the Zags experiencing foul trouble.
Joel Ayayi played nearly 39 minutes, a team high. Filip Petrusev, Corey Kispert, Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder all played at least 30 minutes and Drew Timme logged 29-plus in his second start.
All six had an impact in GU’s narrow victory. Five reached double figures and Few had high praise for Woolridge, who finished with seven points.
“He kind of does the unspectacular things that we desperately need him to do,” Few said. “You can’t press him. He makes the right reads on those ball screens, squirts in there and gets his layins, and he did a nice job defensively.”
Tillie defended LMU standout Eli Scott for much of the first half in the first meeting. The versatile Scott averages 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He’s the only Lion averaging in double digits.
Scott has led the team in scoring in 13 of 23 games. The junior forward is closing in on 1,000 career points and posted a triple-double against Grambling.
The Lions have dropped seven of their past eight.
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