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Gonzaga Basketball

TV Take: Loyola Marymount hung around early, but Gonzaga ‘hit another level’ in a win over the Lions

By Vince Grippi For The Spokesman-Review

The last two Gonzaga games from the McCarthey Athletic Center have been broadcast by the CBS Sports Network. They have featured Rich Waltz and Dan Dickau, serving as the play-by-play voice and analyst, respectively. And they have started the same way, close enough for either Dickau or Waltz to sell how good, and tight, the game was as they sent viewers to the first three or four commercial breaks.

But just like last week’s win over San Francisco, the Bulldogs broke down Loyola Marymount University

“Gonzaga has really hit another level here,” Waltz said in the second half as the Bulldogs were finishing off an 89-55 victory Thursday night before the usual 6,000.

What they saw …

The Lions (9-9 overall, 2-4 West Coast Conference) kept it close most of the first half by doing three things well. Though, actually, they were all related.

• Loyola Marymount rarely took quick shots. Or as Dickau, whose picture in an old Gonzaga uniform popped up on the screen 12 minutes into the game, emphasized more than once, “Loyola Marymount playing well into the shot clock.” That resulted in a couple of shot clock violations but might have slowed the tempo enough to lull the Zags to sleep. It was either that or the fact LMU shot so poorly, finishing at 24% in the first half and 33% overall.

• When the Lions missed, they were able to gather in way-too-many offensive rebounds – at least for Mark Few. That glass attack was led by mullet-haired Australian Keli Leaupepe, who had four of LMU’s 12 first-half offensive rebounds.

“They are a tough team on the glass,” Few told CBS sideline reporter Jenny Dell before heading into the halftime locker room. “They are really putting it on us on the offensive boards.

“Kinda what we expected with (Eli) Scott and Leaupepe.”

Asked what the message would be in the locker room, Few had an answer.

“We’ve got to put our hard hats on.”

They must have. Loyola Marymount had just four offensive rebounds after halftime, and GU finished with just one fewer overall boards.

• The slow pace helped limit the Bulldogs’ fast break, at least for the first 12 minutes. At that point Gonzaga (16-2, 5-0) led 20-17. By the time LMU scored again, the Zags had 35 points. As Waltz had mentioned at the top of the broadcast, Loyola Marymount coach Stan Johnson was worried about GU’s ability to spurt. He tried two timeouts in the run, but the Bulldogs kept spurting.

“This is the spurt Stan Johnson was talking about,” Waltz said as Gonzaga built a 17-point halftime lead.

• Few’s comment about hard hats? Chet Holmgren needed one late in the first half. He got locked up with Leaupepe, who outweighs him by 55 pounds, with 7 seconds left before halftime. The contact opened a cut over the freshman’s left eye, with the broadcast showing blood seeping down his face.

A visit with the trainer and Holmgren finished the second of his two free throws.

What we saw …

• Holmgren had two of the more artistic dunks of his freshman season. The first came early in the game and in transition, something the Lions weren’t giving up often at the time.

But Andrew Nembhard’s first assist – he finished with four – led the 7-footer to the rim behind the lagging LMU defense. Within a nanosecond, the ball was through the rim.

The second one came less than 4 minutes into the second half. The impressive part of this one was how quickly Holmgren went from a dribble handoff to a pass ahead to a slipped screen to the rim where no Lion awaited. The speed at which Holmgren went from weak side to strong side to rim was stunning.

As was a block he had on the Lions’ Cam Shelton, who must have felt he had an easy layup with about 12 minutes left, only to see Holmgren fly in from the weakside and knock the ball off the backboard. It landed with Nolan Hickman and, seconds later, resulted in a Hunter Sallis putback.

“Chet Holmgren has owned the last 5 minutes of this game,” Waltz said at that point, but it could have covered a few such stretches. They resulted in Holmgren scoring 21 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots.

He also had a huge hand in seeing that Lions leading scorer Eli Scott had a subpar night. The fifth-year senior was just 3 of 11 from the floor and finished with seven points.