Gonzaga’s next West Coast Conference assignment is against an opponent with a quality point guard, a much-improved big man and a nationally ranked defense.
Wait, didn’t the Zags just go through that against point guard Frankie Ferrari, 7-footer Jimbo Lull and San Francisco?
They did, and the fifth-ranked Zags (16-2, 3-0 WCC) are facing a similar test Thursday when Loyola Marymount visits the McCarthey Athletic Center, GU’s first home game with students in session since Dec. 5 against Washington.
Gonzaga was mostly successful dealing with San Francisco’s strengths in a 96-83 road win Saturday. The Zags gave up 21 points and four assists to Ferrari, who made 7 of 15 from the field. Lull, after scoring six points in the first 4 minutes, was limited to 10 points and nine boards in 18 foul-plagued minutes.
The Zags torched a USF defense that came in yielding 61.2 points for 96 on 52.2-percent shooting.
LMU (13-4, 1-2), like San Francisco, made waves nationally with a fast start. The Lions, who opened with eight straight wins, earned votes in the AP poll in mid-November. They were No. 10 in the initial NCAA NET rankings but have since dropped to No. 153.
LMU has been one of the most physical teams on Gonzaga’s schedule since Mike Dunlap took over as coach five years ago. The Lions have some depth with 10 returners accounting for 84 percent of the team’s points last season.
The Lions rely on point guard James Batemon (17.9 points, 3.8 assists, 1.9 steals), 7-3 Mattias Markusson (11.2 points, 7.2 rebounds) and the WCC’s No. 1 scoring defense (61.2 points). LMU ranks 13th nationally in scoring defense and 17th in 3-point defense (28.8 percent).
Four opponents – Central Connecticut (74), UCLA (82), Pepperdine (77) and Saint Mary’s (71) – have scored above 70 points against the Lions.
Gonzaga counters with perhaps the most potent offense in the country. The Zags lead the nation in field-goal percentage (52.6) and two-point percentage (61.9). They’re second in scoring (92.2), third in assists (332) and fourth in made free throws (331).
They’re No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. The Zags have shot over 50 percent from the field in seven of their last eight games. They committed just four turnovers, second lowest in program history, against the Dons.
The return of Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall from injury has elevated Gonzaga at both ends of the floor. The defense had issues against the Dons but was outstanding with the game on the line in the final 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Tillie, who missed two months following ankle surgery, had his best game since returning with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Crandall hit a clutch 3-pointer with 2:13 left and his quickness has bolstered Gonzaga’s defense.
“That’s a big confidence boost for him, for a guy who had a broken right hand,” Few said. “He can do that. He shot 40 percent from 3 last year.”
The Zags are the only unbeaten remaining in the WCC. BYU, San Francisco and Saint Mary’s have one loss. USF entertains the Cougars on Saturday while the Zags visit Portland, the lone winless team in conference play.