LMU stuns No. 6 Gonzaga 68-67, snaps Zags’ 75-game homecourt winning streak
Jan. 19, 2023 Updated Thu., Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:24 p.m.
Anton Watson (22) walks off the floor after Loyola Marymount upset sixth-ranked Gonzaga 68-67 during Thursday’s West Coast Conference game at McCarthey Athletic Center. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gonzaga pulled off three comeback wins in crunch time recently and it looked like that scenario might unfold again Thursday.
Down by seven points with less than 3 minutes left, the sixth-ranked Zags rattled off eight straight points to take a one-point lead with 43.4 seconds left. Loyola Marymount borrowed a page from Gonzaga’s late-game handbook as guard Cam Shelton hit a clutch bank shot and forward Michael Graham swatted Drew Timme’s shot in the closing seconds.
When Julian Strawther’s desperation 3-point heave was off target at the buzzer, LMU players and coaches flooded the McCarthey Athletic Center court to celebrate a stunning 68-67 victory, one of the biggest upsets in college basketball this season.
The Lions, 15-point underdogs, snapped a 25-game losing streak in the series and won for the first time in Spokane since 1991, a span of 32 games.
That was just the beginning. LMU ended GU’s 11-game winning streak, nation-leading 75-game home winning streak, 39-game home winning streak over West Coast Conference teams and 93 straight wins over unranked opponents.
“Obviously, the home streak is over and it was going to end sometime,” GU coach Mark Few said. “It ended in a tough, hard-fought battle. Our guys battled back. We had a shot to keep it going. That’s an unbelievable accomplishment by all of our teams and actually our fans and this community to post that big of a number.
“I don’t think anyone is going to touch it for quite some time if you look across the landscape of college basketball.”
Gonzaga was 116-0 vs. conference teams other than BYU or Saint Mary’s since falling to San Diego on Feb. 22, 2014. Gonzaga was 100-0 in Quad 2, 3 or 4 games since the NET rankings were introduced in the 2018-19 season. LMU, with a No. 99 NET rankings, was a Quad 3 contest.
“When you’re playing this team, they’re not going to allow you to win,” Lions coach Stan Johnson said. “You have to beat them and we had moments, especially in the last couple minutes, where we could’ve broken and they stayed together and they were poised and again that’s a sign of growth for our team.”
Especially Shelton, a 6-foot-2 senior that gave Gonzaga fits throughout. He nailed three 3-pointers in the second half – he came in shooting 33.8% from distance – and repeatedly finished drives to the rim to lift LMU to a 66-59 advantage.
Shelton then had an airball, threw a bad pass that Anton Watson intercepted and raced downcourt for a dunk, and misfired again in the lane while Gonzaga was rallying to take the lead.
Timme’s free throw put GU on top 67-66, but the Lions went to Shelton again and he delivered with a drive and short bank shot. The Zags called timeout and drew up a play for Timme, who got the ball just outside the free-throw line, drove the right side of the lane but had his shot rejected by Michael Graham.
“I thought we executed the play really good,” Few said. “He got going downhill and he got to his shot. The kid made a nice play and jumped up and looked like he made a nice block on it.
“We executed down the stretch defensively and I thought on our last couple offensive possessions like we’ve done in these close games. The tough thing was we put ourselves in such a hole with some offensive execution things and just some timely defensive breakdowns. And then they pounded us on the glass pretty good. They deserve all the credit.”
The Lions (14-7, 4-3 WCC) pulled it off behind play-making guard Shelton, who scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and backcourt running mate Jalin Anderson, who added 15 points.
Forward Keli Leaupepe chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds, and Graham added nine points and 10 boards. The Lions dominated the glass 38-29 and kept Timme in check most of the night.
“Just big, strong, physical dudes, just shoving us out of the way, and grabbing it,” Few said of the rebounding difference. “Just being tougher and stronger than us.”
Timme scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. Nolan Hickman added 12 points and six assists and Rasir Bolton finished with 10 points. GU made just 38.5% of its second-half shots and 44.4% overall.
“They made it pretty hard on him,” Watson said of LMU’s defense on Timme. “I think it’s like that every night, he’s going to get double teams, it’s going to be physical for him. Drew needs to keep his head up because he’s one of the best scorers in the nation.”
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