Needless to say, Gonzaga enters this game against LMU with a ton of momentum following the impressive 73-59 victory over No. 13 St. Mary's. In the win, the Zags played with an intensity and level of attitude that I hadn't seen since the game against Xavier. In all honesty, I don't think Gonzaga played anywhere near its "A" game on Thursday. The defense and rebounding were spectacular, but the Zags struggled to shoot free-throws and only received eight points from the bench. David Stockton really struggled against the length and strength of the St. Mary's guards, while there doesn't seem to be a player that the coaching staff will settle on to back up Guy Landry-Edi.
Despite the flaws that Gonzaga showed, the way it played helped overcome some of the struggles. Elias Harris completely set the tone when he blocked Rob Jones on the opening possession of the game and he played with a fire that makes him tough to guard. Rob Sacre decided not to scream and flex, but instead played with efficiency and did an excellent job rebounding. However, the real stars of the game were Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr and Edi. GBJ and Edi were both absolutely outstanding defensively. GBJ hit numerous big shots down the stretch and only further reinforced my belief that if the game was on the line, he would be the one to take the shot. Edi did just enough offensively to keep the paint open and also was tremendous defensively on Matthew Dellavedova and Stephen Holt.It must be kind of surprising to wait this long in the story to read anything in depth about Kevin Pangos, but don't worry, he wasn't forgotten. When he is shooting well from the perimeter, it makes this Gonzaga team so difficult to beat. It's totally unreasonable to expect Pangos to score 27 points every game, but there is no reason he can't score between 15-17 with the amount of attention that the rest of the starting lineup receives. This is another reason that having an offensive threat like Edi in the lineup is so important for this team.
While the victory over St. Mary's was great for the resume, the Zags will lose if they don't take LMU seriously. This Lions team has won four straight games and only sits one game behind Gonzaga in the WCC standings. In fact, LMU still gets to play both GU and St. Mary's and can still dream of winning a WCC title. Anthony Ireland and Drew Viney form an excellent scoring combination, with both averaging over 15 ppg. Ashley Hamilton is a very serviceable big man, while Jared DuBois gives LMU a nice spark off the bench.
Although LMU has a nice amount of fire power offensively, Gonzaga actually matches up very well. GBJ has the strength and athleticism to really limit Ireland, who scored only 11 points and committed seven turnovers in the first matchup. Edi and Keita play with enough physicality to push Viney out of his comfort zone. However, the key for Gonzaga coming out with a win will be finding someone to really push Hamilton. If the Zags bigs play with the same fire and commitment that was on display against the Gaels, they should be able to limit Hamilton and help find a way to win this key game.
How do you guys think Gonzaga will react to its biggest win of the season? Is the attitude and fire that was on display on Thursday something that the Zags can carry over for the next month?