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Gonzaga Vs. LMU: Game Preview

Defeat is not an option

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Lunardi’s Valentine’s Day Bracketology has Gonzaga as a #4 Seed in East Bracket playing their first-round games in Albany, New York. Yuck, time to move up. It starts with a win in Los Angeles.

Revenge! Watson, Timme and Strawther, the guys with three or more years in the program, saw a whole slew of winning streaks (75 straight home games, 93 against unranked opponents, 116 WCC wins against teams other than St Mary’s or BYU) they’d accomplished get broken with the LMU loss. It’s payback time.

Meet the opponent

LMU Lions, 17-10 (WCC 7-6), KenPom #93

LMU holds the distinct accomplishment of being the first (and last) WCC team to beat Gonzaga, St Mary’s and BYU in a single conference season. But, they’ve also lost to Pacific and San Diego.

Last weekend was pretty exciting if you’re an LMU fan. Cam Shelton scores a career high 31-points, after halftime, to defeat the SMC Gaels in overtime. Two days later, Shelton sets a new career high with 36 points in a losing effort at Santa Clara. That’s been the story with LMU this season, huge wins and tough losses.

Fifth year senior Shelton (20.5 ppg) is LMU’s leading scorer. Thursday’s contest will be his 139th college game, the 132nd he’s started. Senior forward Keli Leaupepe is LMU’s leading rebounder (7 rpg), second leading scorer (13.5 ppg) and highest percentage three-point shooter (43%).

LMU should start 6’8” 230-pounder Alex Merkviladze at center, he wasn’t available at the Spokane game. Guard Jalin Anderson, who started the first 14 games of the season, has now been put into the role of providing instant offense off the Lion’s bench. That exactly what he did in Spokane dropping 15 against Gonzaga

LMU has a 12-2 record at their home Gersten Pavillion, those losses being against UC Riverside and USF.

What to watch out for

Stop Cam Shelton

After back-to-back career highs last weekend, stopping or at least dramatically slowing down Shelton will be the primary concern of Gonzaga’s defense tomorrow. At the Kennel, Shelton not only scored 27 points, he also grabbed nine rebounds and essentially controlled the tempo of the game.

Instead of letting him dribble unmolested at the top of the key for 20 or so seconds, Gonzaga will have to challenge him with an aggressive defender (calling Dr. Sallis). Throw off his timing, make him pass before he’s ready and deny him the ball when possible.

Gonzaga successfully defended Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski by having Watson pick up the big setting the screen and forcing Podziemski to take a step back once he went around the screener. It will be interesting to see what Mark Few devises to stop Shelton.

Drew Timme’s continued resurgence

Starting with the Kent State game, Timme went on an incredible stretch of seven games where he averaged 27 points per contest and shot an otherworldly 70% shooting from the field. The best way to describe his next five games was a slump. His scoring average dropped 10 points to “only” 17 per game and his shooting percentage fell to a rather pedestrian 44%. The LMU loss was the last game of the slump, just before his 38-point breakout against Pacific.

His game has continued it’s upswing, better shot selection and ball distribution. Over the last three games, the shooting percentage improved to 64%, he dropped 21 point in 20 minutes against San Francisco then tied a career high with 8 assists against BYU.

On the scoring watch, Drew now has 2070 career points and is 127 away from breaking the Frank Burgess record. Figuring Gonzaga has a minimum of seven games left to play, Drew needs to average 18.15 points per contest.