LOS ANGELES – Gonzaga knows what’s coming next: bruises.
The top-ranked Bulldogs (17-1 overall, 3-0 West Coast Conference) tangle with Loyola Marymount in a 1 p.m. matinee Saturday at Gersten Pavilion. Taming the Lions typically means matching their physicality.
“Every time we play Loyola Marymount, it’s super physical,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “They’re one of the more physical teams we play all year.”
The Zags have won 21 straight in the series and compiled a 42-3 mark under Few. There’s been a mix of blowouts and bruisefests, but the 2019 Zags, with a pair of first-round NBA draft picks, needed a 20-6 closing run for a 73-60 road win.
The Lions (7-9, 1-1) didn’t play Thursday, so they’ve had a week to prepare.
“Scrappy, really tough, going to challenge us physically,” sophomore wing Joel Ayayi said. “We have to stick to fundamentals, moving the ball and not trying to make crazy plays. Rebounding is going to be important.”
There were few speed bumps Thursday as the Zags crushed San Diego 94-50. They accumulated 22 assists, 52 points in the paint and 25 points off turnovers.
Ayayi understands the benefit of close games, like Gonzaga’s WCC Week 1 matchups against Portland and Pepperdine, but he’s a big fan of smooth execution and lopsided outcomes.
“It was really fun (Thursday),’ Ayayi said. “Lot of open shots, lot of steals, running, lot of seeing teammates scoring, lot of ball movement. That’s the best part of basketball.
“We had a close game against Pepperdine and people were saying that’s good for you sometimes, but the more we can play like (Thursday) and have fun on the court and not worry about it being a close game, the better it is for everybody.”
Few had the luxury of limiting minutes for several players in his eight-man rotation. Eleven Zags scored and 12 played. Top scorer Filip Petrusev played 15 minutes and Killian Tillie logged 20. Ryan Woolridge and Corey Kispert played roughly five minutes fewer than their averages.
“We tried to get guys out of there, but we don’t have much (depth),” Few said. “So you have to leave some regulars out there so the thing doesn’t totally fall apart.”
LMU, No. 224 in the NET rankings and No. 209 according to KenPom, will try to control the pace. The Lions are in the top 30 in field-goal shooting (47.6%) but just 289th in scoring (66.8 points).
Junior forward Eli Scott carries the offense with 16.1 points and 4.7 assists per game. He had the program’s first triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists against Grambling State.
Bulgarian Ivan Alipiev, one of seven international players on the roster, averages 10.8 points. It drops off from there to Parker Dortch’s 6.6 points.
LMU has eight newcomers, including seven freshmen, and just one senior. Junior Joe Quintana, the projected starting point guard, suffered a torn ACL in October. Forward Dameane Douglas, a WCC All-Freshman Team selection last year, has been sidelined with a dislocated ankle.
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