The final score may not suggest this, but first year head coach Mike Dunlap seems to have finally put his Lions on the right track. For the third straight game the team's leading scorer, Evan Payne, was not in the starting line up. During that span the Lions have lost twice, though both losses were expected as they came at BYU and today against Gonzaga, but did pick up their first win of the conference season against Portland.
For most of the game, Dunlap's Lions played with an energy and balance not often seen this season. It seemed to catch the Zags off guard and for a while, the third ranked team in the nation seemed flustered.
They are the No. 3 team in the country though, and for good reason, which is why the final and box scores don't reflect anything in those first two paragraphs.
Gary Bell Jr., who hadn't been getting or hitting shots like he should since the start of conference play, led the Zags with 17 points on five of nine shooting. It's great news for the Zags that Bell is back in the thick of their offensive attack.
For the Lions, their recent improvement comes mostly thanks to senior guard Ayodeji Egbeyemi. He led the team with 14 points on 5-13 shooting. His increased role seems to be a direct result of the move of Evan Payne to the bench. Payne followed Egbeyemi with 11 points.
When this game started it looked exactly like a game between a team head and shoulders above the rest of the league and a team floundering in the cellar. Gonzaga ran out to an efficient, glass-crashing 14-0 lead in just under five minutes. Without Patson Siame, who is out with a knee injury, patrolling the paint, Gonzaga had no problem getting to the rim early.
Dunlap called two quick timeouts. The first, down 7-0, didn't do much. The second, down 14-0, completely changed the game. LMU went on a 10-3 run thanks to big plays from Evan Payne and Petr Herman.
It changed the game not in that LMU was able to catch the Zags, or really even come close to doing that, but that they stopped the bleeding.
Early in the second half Ayodeji Egbeyemi twice cut the Zags lead to single-digits.
Petr Herman hit one of his two three pointers to once again bring LMU within single-digits, but the Zags ran away with it from there. Herman, a 6-foot-10 freshman who came into today averaging less than a bucket per game, scored a career high 11 points.
Gary Bell Jr., scored 10 of his game high 17 points in the second half to help the Zags ice the game. The final score of 72-55 might not be the blowout that Gonzaga fans (and if I'm being honest, realistic LMU fans) were expecting. But it doesn't show just how dominant the Zags were in the second half.
Kevin Pangos moved up on two different all-time record lists at Gonzaga in today's game.
His first assist of the game was the 445th of his career, one more than Matt Bouldn's career total and good for fifth all-time at Gonzaga. His first three pointer tied him with Richie Frahm on the all-time list. Then, his second pushed him into second place with 281. He now has 283 made three pointers in his career. Blake Stepp is Gonzaga's all-time leader with 288.
Gonzaga improves to 18-1 (7-0) on the season while Loyola Marymount drops to 5-14 (1-6).