Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - One of the worst teams in the West Coast Conference takes on the absolute best this Thursday, as the Lions of Loyola Marymount come calling on the third-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Loyola Marymount enters the fray sporting a disappointing 8-17 record, which includes a 4-9 mark in conference play. The Lions dropped an 87-68 decision at home to BYU last Saturday, putting an end to their modest two-game win streak. LMU is just 2-8 in true road tests, with both victories coming in two of its last three games away from Gersten Pavilion.
At the other end of the spectrum resides a Gonzaga squad that has won 17 straight games, and has lost only once all season -- that coming in a 66-63 overtime decision at Arizona back on Dec. 6. The Bulldogs, who are coming off a pair of road wins at Santa Clara (77-63) and at San Francisco (81-70), are 13-0 at home this season, and they own the nation's longest active homecourt winning streak at 38 in a row.
Gonzaga owns a commanding 64-21 lead in the all-time series with Loyola Marymount, and the Bulldogs have won each of the last 11 meetings.
The Zags were 72-55 winners in Los Angeles earlier this season, in a game that saw the visitors shoot 52.1 percent from the floor, knocking down 10-of-22 3- point tries along the way, while the home team found the bottom of the net on only 29.3 percent of its total shots, which included a 5-of-21 showing from beyond the arc. Gary Bell, Jr. scored 17 points to lead four players in double figures for GU, while LMU saw Ayodeji Egbeyemi net 14 points in defeat.
Marin Mornar scored 17 points, Evan Payne had 15, and David Humphries came close to a double-double as he produced 10 points and nine rebounds, but those efforts went to waste as Loyola Marymount was hammered at home by BYU over the weekend. The Lions shot 43.6 percent from the field, draining seven treys, but they were beaten badly on the board, 42-25, and outscored at the foul line, 27-13. In the game, BYU's Kyle Collinsworth set a new NCAA record by recording his fifth triple-double of the season.
Payne is at the forefront of LMU's scoring attack this season, as he nets 17.8 ppg thanks to his stellar 79.9 percent effort at the free-throw line. His 111 makes there are significantly more than his closest teammate has attempts. Mornar and Egbeyemi chip in 10.7 and 10.1 ppg, respectively for a team that puts up 64.1 ppg while allowing 70.0 ppg. The Lions have been rather careless with the basketball, turning it over just shy of 14 times per contest, but they are in the black with regard to rebounding margin (+1.2).
Kyle Wiltjer was a man possessed in Gonzaga's recent win over San Francisco, as he poured in 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Kevin Pangos added 17 points to go with four assists, and Byron Wesley pitched in with 12 points for the Bulldogs, who converted 26-of-52 field goal attempts, including six 3- pointers, and went 23-of-30 at the charity stripe. As for the Dons, they wound up hitting 50 percent of their total shots, which included a 9-of-15 performance out on the perimeter, but they scored only nine points at the free-throw line while being beaten on the boards by a 37-22 margin.
Wiltjer is one of four players averaging double digits for Gonzaga this season, as he turns in 16.4 ppg on the strength of his 54.1 percent shooting effort, which includes a 44.3 percent showing beyond the arc. He is also better than 80 percent accurate from the foul line, as is Pangos (.833) who nets 12.1 ppg. Wesley (10.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and Przemek Karnowski (10.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for a team that generates 80.7 ppg by hitting 53.2 percent of its field goal attempts, which encompasses a 40.3 percent effort from 3-point land. The Zags also own a +8.6 rebounding margin.