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Gonzaga vs. LMU: Zags hit the road for four straight games

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It all culminates with a contest against SMU, but first up are the LMU Lions.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

When the Zags hosted LMU in the first week of WCC play, the Bulldogs had one of the easiest and more complete victories they've had all season.

Kyle Wiltjer scored a game high 26 points, Domantas Sabonis added in 15 and Bryan Alberts added 12. All of that added up to a tidy 1.44 points per possession for the Zags, and it seemed like everything was going to be ok in WCC land. But then, the Zags coughed up a lead to Saint Mary's and dropped one at home to BYU.

Things have been a bit more rough for LMU since we last saw them. The loss to Gonzaga was the second of what would be five-straight losses to open up WCC play. They secured two road wins against San Francisco and Santa Clara, but are back on the down swing. Through the insanity that is WCC scheduling, LMU has lost to BYU in two of its past four games, as well as a loss to San Diego. The Lions could use a boost, but a game against Gonzaga is not the place to find it.

Meet the opponent

Loyola Marymount Lions, 10-12, KenPom #221

The funny thing about the last time these two teams met is that it was the slowest paced game both teams have played all season. Which is rather interesting because both teams are in the middle of the pack for what usually happens across the nation in NCAA, averaging around 69 possessions per game.

LMU pretty much has three scorers: Adom Jacko, Steven Haney and Brandon Brown. After that, the drop off in production is pretty steep. This was perfectly reflected by the box score against Gonzaga from earlier this season. Jacko led the leam with 19 points and Haney and Brown each scored 14. After that, the highest scorer was Shamar Johnson with four points.

The main issue is that LMU just doesn't shoot the ball well, whatsoever. As a team they hit 41.3 percent from the floor, good for No. 302 in the nation. Outside of Jacko, who takes 46.9 percent of his shots at the rim, this team shoots a hell of a lot of jumpers, and the issue is that they don't shoot good ones. About 55 percent of Brown's shots are two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com, and he only hits those at a 34.8 percent clip. Considering he attempts 10.4 shots per game, his inefficiency drags down the LMU offense greatly.

Haney is the lone three-point threat for LMU, and against Gonzaga he flashed that, going 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. In that game, he didn't even bother stepping inside the three-point line for a single shot, scoring all his points from three and a couple from the free-throw line.

What to watch out for

Let the bench parade continue!

After the bench averaged approximately 0.02 percent of Gonzaga's total offense over the course of the season, something finally switched in Mark Few's mind and he has opened up the dog house doors to Ryan Edwards and Bryan Alberts. Against Santa Clara, the two each had over 10 minutes, and against San Francisco, the two each had over 20 minutes. Hell, even Silas Melson got in on the party against San Francisco, going 5-of-9 from three-point range and hopefully beginning the process of whatever shooting demons he has struggled with this year.

Few's devotion to Melson has also been rather impressive, considering how greatly Melson has struggled on offense. His offensive rating of 96.9 is the lowest on the team, save for Jack Beach. What is important, however, has been watching Melson take to, for the most part, knowing his role. He has hustled on defense, cut down on the amount of shots he attempts, and hopefully his game against San Francisco is the beginning of something great. Prior to that night, he was shooting 23 percent from three-point range. Now, he is at 28.1 percent.

We haven't seen a monster game from Domantas Sabonis in a while.

After practically shouldering the weight of the entire team at the beginning of conference play, Sabonis has dropped off a bit. Granted, it seems dumb to complain about your starting center scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a game, but when you've seen him do what he did to Tennessee, Portland and San Francisco, the expectations start to get up there.

Sabonis is averaging just 13 points per game in his last three contests. Granted, against Pacific and Santa Clara he more than made up for it with an insane amount of rebounds. However, the Zags desperately need his offense, and the kicker has been that Sabonis has found himself in foul trouble often, once again. He has tallied four fouls in his last three games, and although it only affected his minutes in the blowout against San Francisco, the Zags need an uber-aggressive Sabonis. He can't do that carrying three fouls at the start of the second half.