GAME NOTES: The Loyola Marymount Lions will try to put an end to their season- long five-game losing streak on Saturday afternoon when they play host to the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Gersten Pavilion in West Coast Conference action.
Gonzaga's current three-game road trip did not start off very well, as it dropped its first WCC game of the season on Jan. 9 with a 82-73 setback at Portland, but it bounced back nicely on Thursday night with a strong 70-53 victory over Pepperdine. The Bulldogs' recent loss caused them to drop from the Top 25, but they are still an outstanding 15-3 on the season.
Loyola has been incredibly streaky this season, as it had won four in a row prior to its current five-game slide. The Lions most recently fell at home to Portland on Thursday, 71-57, to slip to 10-9 overall and 2-5 in the WCC. It was their first home loss of the campaign in six tries.
Gonzaga owns a 61-21 lead in the all-time series with Loyola, which includes victories in eight straight meetings dating back to 2010.
The Bulldogs opened up a comfortable 18-point lead over Pepperdine in their most recent contest and cruised to the victory from there, finishing 45.5 percent from the field, while holding the Wave to under 33 percent efficiency from the floor. Sam Dower was flawless from the field in the victory, draining all seven of his shots en route to a game-high 18 points, while adding eight rebounds, a block and a steal for good measure. Kevin Pangos poured in 14 points, while Przemek Karnowski netted 11.
Gonzaga's latest offensive performance was actually a lackluster one by its lofty standards, as it ranks second in the nation in both field-goal percentage (.512) and 3-point percentage (.427) for 81.6 ppg, which is 14.9 ppg more than it allows on the opposite end of the floor. Pangos (16.9 ppg) has drained a team-high 53 long-range buckets at a 46.9 percent clip and is also a marksman from the free-throw line (61-of-66). Dower (13.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Karnowski (10.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) are mainstays in the frontcourt. Gary Bell Jr. brings 12.7 ppg to the table, and the deep squad is rounded out by four others who score between 6.2 and 7.8 ppg.
Loyola put together a rare poor performance on its home floor earlier in the week, as it shot a meager 31.8 percent from the field and lost a second-half lead after Portland ripped off a 20-4 run to pull away. Evan Payne and Anthony Ireland both scored 14 points to pace the losing effort, but the duo combined to make just 8-of-32 from the field. Alex Osborne narrowly missed a double- double with nine points and 10 rebounds, while adding four steals as well.
The Lions haven't experienced much trouble this season in terms of putting points on the board, as they shoot just shy of 45 percent from the field for 76.0 ppg, but their downfall has come due to their porous defense, which yields 77.0 ppg on 45.5 percent shooting. Ireland puts up 18.7 ppg thanks in large part to his active, accurate season from the free-throw line (105- of-128), and he also has nearly twice as many assists (102) as turnovers (55). Payne (14.1 ppg) has drained 25 3-pointers at a 34.2 percent clip, and Gabe Levin acts as an anchor down low with 10.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
Loyola showed in its most recent contest that it is indeed vulnerable at Gersten Pavilion, and now it has to face its toughest challenge of the season in hosting Gonzaga. The Bulldogs' might have tired legs wrapping up a lengthy road trip, but they are still the much more talented team and should have no problem dismissing the Lions.
Game Date and Time