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Gonzaga vs. Loyola Marymount game preview: Zags head on the road for the week

Before Saturday’s big game rolls around, there is the one tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are heading off to sunny Los Angeles to take on the Loyola Marymount Lions on Thursday, Feb. 7.

The Zags took care of business and avoided the curse of the No. 1 team this past week. Gonzaga went on the road to BYU and came away with a hard-earned victory in one of the toughest WCC arenas out there. They followed it up with a definitive win over Santa Clara, without Nigel Williams-Goss even seeing a minute of action.

LMU finally gets to return to home, having played four of their past five games on the road. Last week, the Lions split the difference between San Diego and San Francisco, and continued to struggle to put together a win streak in conference play.

Last time the two teams met up, LMU got nearly bludgeoned to death by the balanced Gonzaga scoring attack, 93-55. Six different Gonzaga players scored double-digit points in that game.

Meet the opponent

Loyola Marymount Lions, 11-12, KenPom #166

For a team that has as much experience as it does, the Lions are shockingly average when it comes to their play. Their KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency numbers are middle of the road. Same can be said for their eFG%, their turnover percentage and their offensive rebound percentage. Across the board, most of their team offensive statistics land them at No. 5 in the conference.

They do a few things well, however. Senior guards Brandon Brown and Buay Tuach provide a majority of the offense for LMU. Tuach, if you recall, scored 19 points against the Zags earlier this season. The main issue for the Lions is their ability to shoot the ball is just middle of the ground. They do a decent ball of passing it around and finding the open man, but unfortunately, they don’t hit the open shot as often as they should.

This problem is compounded by the fact that LMU is absolutely rotten at the free throw line. As a team, the Lions shoot 61.7 percent from the charity stripe, which is good for No. 347 in the nation. For reference, LMU has lost on average close to seven points per game this season from missed free throws.

What to watch out for

Nigel Williams-Goss creaky ankles.

The face of the Zags sat out Saturday’s contest against Santa Clara because of a sprained ankle he suffered against BYU. Silas Melson got the start in place of NWG and performed admirably. Hopefully, Williams-Goss is back up to snuff and ready to play this week. He isn’t exactly needed for tonight’s contest, but the Zags will need his legs (and then some) to be fresh by the time the visit to Moraga rolls around.

The Zags still aren’t doing that well on the defensive boards.

Granted, they aren’t doing as poorly as they used to, but Gonzaga still isn’t the tightest ship when it comes to keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Things looked good against Santa Clara and BYU, but this is coming off of Portland snaring 27 offensive rebounds in two games. We have talked a lot about why this all happens, defensive rotations, poor positioning, yada yada yada, but at the end of the day, weaknesses get exploited in the NCAA Tournament. For a team that is trying to make a case for a No. 1 seed, the easiest way to get bounced is to give up too many second chance points.

LMU grabbed 12 offensive boards the last time around, let’s see if the Zags can do a better job tonight.

Game info

  • Time: 7:00 pm PT
  • Radio: Gonzaga IMG Network
  • Online: (in select markets)