Sam Dower overcame a few point blank misses and scored a career-high 28 points as the Gonzaga Bulldogs held off a persistent Loyola Marymount squad in a 82-72 victory on Saturday. Dower had 28 points off of 12-of-22 and added 14 rebounds to take over and bring home the victory.
The Bulldogs had an obvious matchup advantage down low and exploited it early and often. They fed the ball down low to Dower pretty consistently as the forward took the team's first six shots. The game plan didn't change much despite Dower missing quite a few open opportunities. They persevered, luckily, because LMU wasn't going to go down easily.
The Zags took a nine-point lead into halftime and looked well on their way to charging to a comfortable win. But LMU used a 10-0 run to rally back and take the lead in the second half, largely led by freshman guard Evan Payne's 19 points. Payne committed a rather dumb foul for his fourth and headed to the bench, giving Gonzaga enough of a chance to open up a comfortable lead and coast towards the end.
- Gerard Coleman was stellar when he was on the court and gave the Bulldogs a solid boost of energy on the floor. It also came at the expense of Angel Nunez. Coleman finished with 17 minutes as opposed to six minutes for Nunez. Both are exciting players, but both bring largely the same skillset for Gonzaga and it will be interesting if coach Mark Few can figure out how to use them both on the court at the same time.
- Pangos was dreadful from the floor, finishing with three points off 1-of-11 shooting. He had six assists but added four turnovers to the mix. He also finished 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. The key here is that Pangos kept shooting, which is important with the injury to Gary Bell. Dranginis isn't a three point threat, David Stockton often struggles to impress with his sky-high arc. If Pangos is open, he needs to take that shot, regardless.
- Drew Barham loves that corner three. Honestly, I can't understand why any team allows him to get open there.
- Kyle Dranginis finished with a team-high 37 minutes. He had a couple too many turnovers for my liking, but his stat line of nine points, three rebounds, four assists, one steal and two blocks is the kind of stat line Gonzaga needs. Dranginis is finding his way into the starting lineup because of his hustle on the floor, and Few will have the good kind of decision to make when Bell comes back about how to redistribute the minutes.
The Bulldogs struggled to contain Payne but they did a fantastic job on both Gabe Levin and Anthony Ireland. All in all, it was a pretty solid defensive job on a team that baits their opponents into sending them to the line. The Lions finished with just 13 trips to the free throw line and were forced to shoot shots, something that isn't their forte. It was a close game at points for sure, but the Zags didn't back down when LMU was showing a momentous punch. I'll give them credit for that.
Overall, it wasn't the prettiest of wins. But at this point in the season, I could care less if a win is a Botticelli or if it is a Jackson Pollack. They both are the same result.