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LMU snaps the streak with 68-67 win over Gonzaga

The Zags had been playing with fire and finally got burned.

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

All good things come to an end, I suppose. Gonzaga had a handful of absurd streaks running, the most notable being 93 straight wins against unranked opponents and 75 straight wins at home. The count in both of those departments resets to zero as the Loyola Marymount Lions earned their first win in Spokane since 1991 and first win against Gonzaga since 2010 with a gritty 68-67 win in The Kennel.

Drew Timme led Gonzaga in scoring with 17 points, but struggled from the field for the first 30 minutes of the game and from the free throw line (7-12) for the entire night. Nolan Hickman had 12 points and 6 assists, while Rasir Bolton was the last Zag in double figures with 10 points. Cam Shelton played big for LMU with 27 points and 9 rebounds, despite 6 turnovers.

After the mental break of a 40-point blowout victory over Portland, the Zags returned to playing a grinder of a battle against a WCC foe. LMU’s defense stymied the Gonzaga offense during the first half, with Timme in particular effectively kept in check thanks to the interior defense of Rick Assanza, the Lions’ 7’1” stopper.

With Timme out of sorts, Gonzaga’s halfcourt offense looked very out of sync. Hickman and Bolton kept things afloat, but there was far too much iso-ball with very few ideas on how to break down LMU’s defensive pressure without Timme able to bail the offense out.

The Lions built on their strong finish to the first half by taking the lead early in the second half. Nothing came easy for Gonzaga, while the Lions grew in confidence as the hosts continued to struggle to string positive possessions together.

LMU’s defense somehow got more stout in the second half and managed to make Gonzaga’s generally efficient offense look terrible. The Zags struggled to execute very basic offensive concepts and were very fortunate that the Lions didn’t totally pull away in the middle of the second half when they easily could have. Instead, Gonzaga’s biggest deficit was only 9 points with about 11 minutes left to play.

As things were looking dire, the Zags got some big plays from Hunter Sallis at both ends of the floor. Sallis paired his customary defense with a handful of big buckets, one being a corner three off a feed from Timme late in the shot clock that breathed life into The Kennel and slowed some of LMU’s momentum at a moment when Gonzaga really needed a positive play from somewhere.

Of course, the Zags didn’t take off from there. But they were in the game and continued to fight. When Gonzaga is in that position, they’re generally a good bet to close. But the Zags didn’t get it done in this game.

Cam Shelton made a load (all) of big buckets for the Lions down the stretch and the Zags didn’t do enough defensively to shut him down. Gonzaga did make their expected run down the stretch and held the lead at 67-66, though Timme will rue a missed free throw that would have saved the Zags from being in a position to have to make a game winning shot in the final seconds. Unsurprisingly, it was Shelton who made the game winner for the Lions.

Gonzaga will need to regroup and rethink their approach, as this loss has been coming if you’ve been watching them play over the last few weeks. They had managed to dodge a lot of close calls, but eventually the luck runs out.