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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

‘We wanted to return the favor.’ Gonzaga leads by as many 51 points in 108-65 romp at Loyola Marymount

Feb. 16, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 16, 2023 at 11:52 p.m.

LOS ANGELES – Many of Gonzaga’s games in West Coast Conference play have been tightly-contested, down-to-the-wire affairs decided in the closing minutes.

The Bulldogs watched one of those scenarios come back to bite them last month during a one-point loss to Loyola Marymount.

In Thursday’s rematch at Gersten Pavilion, No. 13 Gonzaga looked the part of a team that had waited 28 days to return the favor.

The Bulldogs did more than settle the score against the Lions, bolting out to a 21-point lead with 13 minutes and 36 seconds to play in the first half before leading by 40 points at halftime and by as many as 51 in the second half of a 108-65 romp, played in front of a sellout crowd in Los Angeles.

“I think ever since the buzzer sounded back in Spokane, we’ve been ready for this game and circle it on our calendar,” Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther said. “We just wanted to return the favor and come back to their house and get a win in here. I’m just glad we dominated for 40 minutes. That was a big emphasis for awhile now, but that was the first time we really showed it.”

Gonzaga eclipsed the century mark for the seventh time this season, matching the program record set by the 2018-19 Zags. They set a new season-high by scoring 68 points in the first half while making 71.1% of their shots from the field and 77.9% from the 3-point line.

That was largely due to another scorching night from Strawther, who finished with 28 points on 9 of 14 from the field and 6 of 8 from the 3-point line.

The second-highest scoring outing of Strawther’s career included two four-point plays – the first ones of the season for any Gonzaga player – and the game’s top highlight, a one-handed alley oop dunk that came on a feed from Malachi Smith.

Drew Timme initiated the sequence by blocking Chance Stephens’ 3-pointer and Smith dribbled into the key, lobbing a high pass to Strawther who collected in the air and punched in the dunk with his right hand.

“It’s funny, we were actually joking about it at halftime, all the guys were saying the pass was really bad and I had to go up and get it,” Strawther said. “But I was pointing up the whole way down the court, I was just praying that he threw it and I was super happy when he did it. I’ve had a couple this year but I think that was my best one.”

Most of Gonzaga’s offensive production in the first half came with Timme sitting on the bench. The senior forward, who’s 12th in the nation averaging 21.1 points per game, picked up two early fouls and sat for the final 11 minutes, 30 seconds of the first half.

The Bulldogs didn’t bat an eye, creating opportunities from virtually every spot on the floor while getting production from a variety of sources.

Strawther was one of six Gonzaga players to finish in double figures and three of them had 12 points or more by halftime. Anton Watson finished with 16 points, Smith and Timme each had 13, Rasir Bolton scored 12 and Nolan Hickman contributed 11.

“Certainly Loyola had our attention after what they did to us in Spokane,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “That and then hopefully, I hope they’re feeling that this thing is winding down now and we’re getting closer and closer. We only have three games left in league, so hopefully we’re sensing that too.”

Afterward, Few was asked whether he was more impressed with Gonzaga’s ultra-efficient offense or the Bulldogs’ rock-solid defense.

Cam Shelton, the WCC’s leading scorer in conference games, came in averaging 26 points over LMU’s last eight games but scored just 15 points on Thursday and first field goal didn’t come until the 1-minute, 9-second mark of the first half.

The 3-pointer cut LMU’s deficit to 61-25, but Gonzaga went into halftime leading 68-28 after Smith pilfered the ball from Shelton and took it coast-to-coast for a dunk right before the buzzer sounded.

Gonzaga forced 19 turnovers and limited LMU to 38% shooting.

“Our defense was good, it was probably as good as we’ve been all year,” Few said. “We put it together for a full 20 (minutes), then we kept our intensity even in the second half. … Great overall effort on both sides of the ball and it’s something we can really draw on moving forward.”

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