(7) Gonzaga (19-2) at Loyola Marymount (8-12)
Thursday, January 31, 11 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gersten Pavilion (4,156) -- Los Angeles, California. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: GU 10-1, LMU 5-4. Away Record: GU 5-1, LMU 2-7. Neutral Record: GU 4-0, LMU 1-1. Conference Record: GU 6-0, LMU 1-6. Series Record: Gonzaga leads, 58-21.
GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs try to keep their perfect record in West Coast Conference action in tact, as they pay a visit to the Lions of Loyola Marymount on Thursday night.
Gonzaga is 6-0 in league play, and the team has won two straight and 10 of its last 11 games overall to climb to 19-2 on the season. The Bulldogs took care of visiting San Francisco in their most recent outing, logging a 66-52 win last Saturday to move to 10-1 at home. Their road record stands at 5-1, and they are 9-1 outside of Spokane all told when you factor in their 4-0 mark in neutral-site affairs.
Loyola Marymount is at the opposite end of the WCC standings, the team having won just once in seven opportunities against league foes thus far. The Lions are currently mired in a four-game losing streak, with their most recent setback occurring in a 60-57 final last Thursday against visiting Pepperdine. The loss dropped the team to 5-4 at home this season, and this is the second of three straight games the Lions will play at Gersten Pavilion. LMU is 4-4 in its last eight bouts against ranked opponents, with its last win coming against No. 16 Saint Mary's-CA last February. In all, the Lions faced five ranked teams last season, going 3-2.
Gonzaga owns a 58-21 lead in the all-time series with Loyola Marymount, and the Zags have been victorious in each of the last five meetings.
With the WCC's third-leading scorer on the roster, Gonzaga has the ability to outscore the majority of its opponents, using solid shooting from just about anywhere on the court, and sound defensive play to keep the opposition on its heels. Kelly Olynyk is averaging 18.2 ppg for the season, but he has upped the ante in conference games, netting 23.2 ppg. A 65.8 percent shooter who also happens to convert 81.7 percent of his free throws, Olynyk ranks as one of the team's top rebounders (7.0 rpg) and paces the club in blocked shots (16) as well. Elias Harris (15.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Kevin Pangos (12.0 ppg, 3.6 apg) also do their part in helping the Bulldogs win, which they do more often than not by putting up 78.9 ppg while giving up just 62.6 ppg, both of which lead the conference. The team's .511 field goal percentage and .405 field goal percentage defense are also tops in the league. Olynyk had 13 points and eight rebounds, Harris logged a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards, and Pangos tacked on 11 points for the Zags in their recent win over San Francisco. The Dons shot below 40 percent from the field, and committed 17 turnovers, off which the Bulldogs tallied 18 points.
The Lions battled back to make a game of it, but still came out on the short end against Pepperdine the last the out. Anthony Ireland led the charge with 14 points to go with seven rebounds, while three others finished in double figures as well. However, the team simply could not overcome a 36.1 percent shooting effort, which included a dismal 4-of-25 showing from beyond the arc. LMU goaded the Waves into 17 giveaways, turning them into 25 points, but the visitors shot 45.8 percent from the floor in handing the Lions their fourth straight loss. Like Olynyk for Gonzaga, Ireland is among the league's top scorers, as he averages 20 ppg while also pulling down 5.2 rpg, dishing out 4.1 apg and logging 34 steals -- all of which lead the team. Ashley Hamilton (14.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Ayodeji Egbeyemi (10.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) lend support for a club that averages just shy of 70 ppg. Unfortunately, its defensive effort hasn't been up to snuff, as foes are scoring 70.6 ppg in hitting nearly 38 percent of their 3-point attempts.
Watching Olynyk and Ireland go toe-to-toe is worth the price of admission alone, but beyond that matchup this is clearly Gonzaga's game to lose.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Gonzaga 75, Loyola Marymount 65
01/31 10:31:19 ET