Gonzaga won’t get caught off guard by Loyola Marymount this time around.
The No. 13 Bulldogs begin their two-game trip to Southern California on Thursday night against LMU.
LMU beat then-No. 6 Gonzaga 68-67 in their first West Coast Conference matchup on Jan 19, ending its 75-game home winning streak, tied for the eighth-longest in Division I history.
For the Lions, the win ended a 25-game losing streak against the Bulldogs that dated to the early 1990s.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Gonzaga forward Drew Timme said of the rematch. “We felt like that (Jan. 19) game was in our hands and we kind of gave it away. We’re going to give it our all, and they’re going to give it their all, so it’s going to be a battle, but it’s going to be a fun one for sure.”
The Bulldogs (21-5, 10-2 WCC) continue to face more challenges than usual this season, especially in conference play.
Gonzaga needed to rally from a late deficit to beat BYU 88-81 on Saturday night. Julian Strawther scored 26 points against BYU and he appears more than ready to improve on his last performance against LMU, when he was held to eight points on 1-for-8 shooting.
“He’s very confident in that stroke of his and he’s big,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He’s almost 6-8, so he’s able to get a high shooting pocket, so I don’t think a normal closeout really affects him.”
Few said Strawther has added another weapon to his repertoire in the past 10 to 12 games.
“He’s very comfortable going downhill against some of these coverages, just getting those little floaters in the lane,” Few said. “That’s really become a big part of his game.”
Since beating Gonzaga three weeks ago, LMU has continued on a rollercoaster season.
The Lions (17-10, 7-6) rallied from an early 16-2 hole against No. 17 Saint Mary’s before winning 78-74 in overtime on Thursday.
Two days later, LMU lost 71-69 to Santa Clara, falling to 0-3 on the road since winning at Gonzaga.
Few said the Lions should never be taken lightly.
“They’re a really good team,” he said. “They’re on their way to winning 20-plus games this year. Obviously, beating Gonzaga and beating Saint Mary’s, they’ve shown they’re capable.”
Few singled out LMU point guard Cam Shelton, who’s averaging 20.4 points, second in the conference behind Timme (21.1), as a player Gonzaga needs to contain.
Keli Leaupepe, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward, and reserve forward Michael Graham also need to be a focus. Graham, who’s in his first year at LMU after playing two seasons at Elon University, had nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocks against Gonzaga in the last game.
“Shelton’s having just an unbelievable year,” Few said. “It starts with him, but they’re also very physical, with Leaupepe and the big fella (Graham), that they added in the transfer, was really, really good against us. … It’s going to be a tough haul for us. We know that, but again, we’re going down there with the right mindset.”
–Field Level Media