SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — After struggling last week in wins at Santa Clara and San Francisco, Gonzaga was looking for a bit of a breather.
Enter Loyola Marymount.
Gonzaga scored the first 20 points of the game and cruised to an 80-51 win over the Lions on Thursday night.
“We needed it after the last few games went to the wire,” said Gonzaga guard Gary Bell Jr. “We needed this.”
Kyle Wiltjer scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Gonzaga, which won its 18th consecutive game. The Lions shot just 12 percent in the first half and trailed 44-15 at halftime.
“We played really solid defensively,” Wiltjer said. “They were in some weird zones. But we were able to push it out and get some easy baskets.”
Przemek Karnowski and Byron Wesley each scored 11 points for Gonzaga (25-1, 13-0 West Coast).
David Humphries scored 11 points for Loyola Marymount (8-18, 4-10), which didn’t make a field goal for the first 12 minutes to fall way behind early.
Loyola Marymount coach Mike Dunlap said his team ran into a “cocktail mixture” of Gonzaga’s talent and vocal home crowd.
Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos, who had nine points, eight assists and two steals, “is far and away the best all-around player in the league,” Dunlap said. “He looks like a choir boy and hits like an assassin.”
Gonzaga, whose only loss this season was at No. 7 Arizona, has won 39 consecutive home games, the nation’s longest streak.
They are the first team in the nation to win 25.
Gonzaga, which leads the nation in field goal shooting at 53.2 percent, shot just 49 percent but still ran away with the game. Loyola Marymount made just 29 percent of its field goal attempts (15 of 51). Gonzaga won the rebounding battle, 46-30.
Gonzaga took control early, with Wiltjer hitting a 3-pointer and Wesley a layup in the opening seconds.
Loyola Marymount called a timeout barely a minute into the game, but it didn’t help.
Gonzaga scored the first 20 points, as the Lions missed their first eight shots and committed six turnovers.
Loyola Marymount finally scored on Ayodeji Egbeyemi’s free throw with 11:52 left in the first.
The Lions switched to a press, which slowed down the Zags’ offense.
Gonzaga made 10 of its first 15 shots to build a 27-4 lead with 9:12 left in the first. All the Loyola points were on free throws.
After missing their first 12 attempts, the Lions finally got a field goal on Egbeyemi’s short jumper with 7:57 left in the first. Wiltjer immediately replied with a 3-pointer as the Zags took a 30-6 lead and the crowd chanted “mercy rule.”
Karnowski went down hard after a missed dunk late in the first, but he recovered to sink both free throws and steal a Loyola Marymount pass on the next possession.
Gonzaga led 44-15 at halftime, after shooting 57.7 percent. The Lions made just 3 of 25 field goals in the first half, for 12 percent. They missed all eight of their 3-point attempts.
“We really concentrated on defense in the first half,” Karnowski said. “Basically, everything the coaches talked about we did in the first half. We let up a little in the second half.”
The Lions shot better in the second, scoring the first seven points of the half — including a 3-pointer by Chase Flint — to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 44-22.
But Wiltjer scored nine points during a 12-6 Gonzaga run that pushed their lead to 56-28.
Kevin Pangos hit consecutive 3-pointers to lift the Zags to a 66-37 lead.
The Lions did not threaten after that. But they ended up matching Gonzaga’s 36 points scored in the second.
Gonzaga shot 57.7 percent in the first and just 40.7 percent in the second. Loyola Marymount shot 12 percent in the first and 46 percent in the second.
Loyola Marymount: Lions coach Mike Dunlap used to coach the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats … Evan Payne averages 17.8 points per game, but was largely stymied by the Zags.
Gonzaga: Coach Mark Few leads all Division I coaches with a career winning percentage of .809 … Five Bulldogs average at least 9.9 points per game … Gonzaga leads the all-time series 62-23 … Former Gonzaga star Robert Sacre, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, was at the game.
Loyola Marymount: At Portland on Friday.
Gonzaga: Hosts Pepperdine on Saturday.
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