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Gonzaga vs. LMU 2017 game preview: Zags return to friendly confines of Spokane

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They got a tune-up game tonight, and then Saint Mary’s on Thursday.

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The hullaballoo will completely focus on Saturday night, but first up the Gonzaga Bulldogs have a quick tango with the Loyola Marymount Lions on Thursday night.

The Zags are coming off their most complete win of conference play against San Francisco, largely pulled off by Nigel Williams-Goss historic night. The Zags raced out to an early lead and kept pace with the Dons the rest of the time, finishing with the 15-point victory.

LMU got a nice win over Santa Clara for their first victory of WCC play. That is good news for the Lions, because the brass at the WCC did not favors to LMU on the scheduling front. They opened with games against Saint Mary’s and BYU and now draw Gonzaga on the fourth game. Yikes.

Meet the opponent

Loyola Marymount Lions, 8-7, KenPom #163

Say what you will about the Lions, but there is a good chance they somehow keep this game entertaining. Eight of LMU’s last 12 games have been decided in the last 10 seconds, and four of their last eight games have been one point decisions.

NCAA Basketball: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions are led by senior guard Brandon Brown and his 13.9 points per game. Senior center Stefan Jovanovic and Buay Tuach add the rest of the firepower for the Lions, but overall, this is a balanced team that runs eight or nine deep depending on the night.

Defensively, the Lions are one of the more aggressive teams in the WCC. LMU leads the conference in turnovers forced. Unfortunately, if they can’t force that turnover, the defense isn’t the most consistent at holding opponents to tough shots. Opponents shoot an eFG% of 51.2 against the Lions.

What to watch out for

Attack the defensive glass.

The Zags have gotten better at being aggressive on the defensive glass as of late, but LMU will provide another challenge on this front. The Lions lead the WCC in offensive rebounding, and Jovanovic is probably one of the better players in the conference in this realm. The Zags, although no longer absolutely terrible here, aren’t in March shape quite yet. Hopefully, Mark Few and company are still focusing on this in practice.

Ignore the three-point defense.

LMU is not a good three point shooting team, and because of that, they have virtually abandoned the outside shot. 58.3 percent of their points come are two-pointers, good for No. 12 in the nation. Expect to see the Zags work a fair amount of man to man defense in this matchup, because LMU is hardly going to make you pay.

Jovanovic vs. Karnowski is the premier matchup.

Karnowski has a lot of weight on Jovanovic, but the LMU center from Serbia is a legitimate center. He transferred after three years at Hawaii and is finishing out his collegiate career on Venice Beach. Jovanovic has been rendered useless lately, fouling out in three consecutive games against Saint Mary’s, BYU, and Pepperdine. After him, the Lions are a bit shallow on experience depth. The Zags would be smart to attack Jovanovic quickly and often.

Game info

  • Time: 6:00 pm PT
  • TV: KHQ/ROOT (Greg Heister, Dan Dickau and Richard Fox)
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Radio Network (Tom Hudson and Matt Santangelo)
  • Online: WatchESPN/TheW.tv (in select markets)