No. 1 Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0) takes on Loyola Marymount (11-22, 1-15) Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in the West Coast Conference Quarterfinals. The game will take place at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and will be televised by ESPN2.
The Stats - Loyola Marymount has hardly become a juggernaut during their WCC Tournament run. They've just found ways to win. Just as they struggled to take care of the ball in the regular season, they've got 25 turnovers compared to 32 assists in their three wins. While they haven't seen a significant boost in their scoring numbers, they did shoot above their WCC regular season field goal percentage in all three games. And after allowing teams to score 71.2 points per game on them, they haven't allowed Portland, San Francisco or Santa Clara above 60. They were among the worst rebounding teams, but are plus-11 combined in those wins. The question is, can they do that against the No. 1 team in the nation? A team they lost to twice, by 32 points on average. A team whose bench outscored them 47-43 in Los Angeles. Who outrebounded them 89-60 in two games. And who shot better than 51 percent, while holding them below 30.
The Stars - Anthony Ireland is the only LMU player to reach double figures against GU this season. Their losses to the Bulldogs were highlighted by his 30-point outing in Spokane on January 31st. During their run he's averaged 17 points, including 23 and the gamewinner against Santa Clara. Ashley Hamilton is chipping in with 15 per game. Meanwhile, the Lions have had a tough time slowing down Kelly Olynyk. He scored 15 at LMU, and 20 in the McCarthey Athletic Center. He put up those numbers on a combined 13-for-17 from the field. Kevin Pangos also had a 7-for-11 night with 20 points in Spokane, while Gary Bell Jr. connected on five threes in their first meeting. Six Zags have reached double-digits against Loyola Marymount this season. Olynyk has been the most consistent contributor, but LMU is well aware of how balanced the Zags can be on offense.
The Storylines - Max Good's team has quickly become the story of the 2013 WCC Tournament. From winning one conference game in the regular season, to three in as many nights. That earned them their first meeting with the No. 1 team since Bill Russell patrolled the paint at USF. Never has the spotlight been as bright on Gonzaga as it is now that they've climbed to the top of the polls for the first time in program history. But that designation, as well as the prospect of a one seed come NCAA Tournament time, would likely disappear with any loss in the WCC Tournament. Good thing for GU, they've got plenty of motivation going into Vegas thanks to last year's shortcomings. After losing the regular season and tournament titles to St. Mary's they'd love nothing more than to complete the sweep. A 16-0 run took care of the first. The second part begins Saturday against the Lions.