A February trip to Los Angeles can be good for the soul. The Zags kicked off their LA trip with an easy victory over the Loyola Marymount Lions.
Both teams started off the game with an uptempo pace and some easy buckets. LMU's Adom Jacko played up to his billing early as he was active and impactful on his way to six quick points. As has been our problem all season, the Zags were a little sloppy with the ball in the opening minutes, quickly notching three turnovers before three minutes had even passed.
Eventually, the Zags settled into the game, continuously getting into the paint against LMU's soft interior defense. Granted, LMU's defense was absolutely abysmal, but give Gonzaga credit for having extended stretches of crisp offensive execution.
The first half featured a very balanced attack. Eric McClellan attacked the basket early and often, and even Ryan Edwards made his presence felt on the boards and with two buckets in the paint. It was nice to see the big man from Montana have an early impact, he's grown more comfortable on the floor since being thrust into a bigger role after Przemek's season-ending injury.
While everyone chipped in to build a comfortable 21-point first half lead, I have to single out Kyle Dranginis for the job he did to set the tone. KD was everywhere grabbing rebounds, jumping passing lanes, cleaning up second half chances at the rim, and executing the offense. He finished the half with 9 points on 4/5 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.
The second half was more of the same as LMU had no answers for Wiltjer and Sabonis inside, and the guards found the path to the paint mostly unimpeded. Even against a team as bad as LMU, it was nice to see the Zags continue to execute the game plan and play smart, clean basketball after all of the second half collapses we've endured this season.
I have to give a nod to Dustin Triano who checked into the game at the 4 minute mark and immediately knocked down a three. Not to be outdone, Rem Bakamus had a sweet scoop and score with just under a minute to play. That's how you hold it down for the bench mob!
Since the team from Moraga lost to BYU tonight (hah!), Gonzaga moves into first place in the WCC.
Some additional thoughts:
- I like E-Mac's game so much more when all his shots are coming within seven feet of the basket. He's really found his niche in the offense over the last few weeks.
- Early foul trouble for Jacko ended any chance of LMU keeping up with the Zags, as LMU had no options on offense once their senior leader went to the bench.
- It was nice to see Domas break the 20-point mark for the first time since he scored 28 against Portland on January 9. He also notched his conference leading 13th double-double of the season.
- The Zags shot 10/14 in the first 8 minutes despite Wiltj not taking a single shot attempt
- Bryan Alberts had a sequence in the first half where he was just dribbling around without a real plan. He does a nice job in his catch-and-shoot role, but that sequence showed there's still a lot of work to be done with his game. Tonight was not his night.
- This game featured one of the rarest of events, Domas getting blocked at the rim by 6'1 Munis Tutu.
- Even in a blowout, I have to point out 4 turnovers for Josh. For the most part, he has gotten a grip on the turnover problems that plagued him during non-conference play, but he had some really shaky moments with the ball in this game.
- More burn for the bench mob, I love it.