SPOKANE, Wash. — The Gonzaga Bulldogs dropped 68 points in the first half against LMU, jumping out to a 40 point lead and ultimately avenging last month's loss with a dominating 43 point victory on the road Thursday evening.
In the words of Idris Elba's character from The Wire: "I want you to put the word out there that we back up".
Perhaps more impressive than the 68 first half points - more than the total number of points they scored against LMU last month - was that National Player of the Year candidate Drew Timme only had one of them, ultimately finishing with 13 points on a quiet but effective 3-5 shooting.
Instead the game belonged to Gonzaga's backcourt, namely wing Julian Strawther who dropped 30 points on 6-8 shooting from beyond the arc, frequently pulling up from Damian Lillard-like range and stretching LMU's defense to wafer-thin levels in the rout.
Strawther's performance is his third game of 25 or more points in his last six contests, as the junior guard from Las Vegas has come into his own at a critical time for Mark Few's team.
Locked on Zags host Andy Patton believes Strawther's recent performances raise Gonzaga's ceiling this season, in part because it takes pressure off Timme down on the block.
"He's making really good decisions with the basketball," Patton said. "He's not showing timidness, he's not passing up good looks to try to get Drew Timme the basketball, he's playing within the flow of the offense."
Certainly Strawther's primary focus is winning basketball games and making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but his recent stretch of hoops has another bonus effect for the 6'7 wing: boosting his NBA draft stock.
Strawther began the season showing up in the late first to early second round of most mock drafts, but an inconsistent start to the season (and uncharacteristic struggles from Gonzaga as a whole) dropped him down into the mid-to-late second round, with some mocks removing him entirely.
While Strawther could opt to return to Spokane for his senior season, a la Corey Kispert a few years ago, his torrid hot streak will no doubt get the attention of NBA scouts and draft analysts - and his prototypical three-and-D frame and skill set should make him extremely appealing to contending teams drafting at the end of the first round.
"He's got the skills that are coveted in the modern NBA," Patton continued. "The teams picking [in the late first round] may not want a 19-year-old who is three years away from competing. They may want a player who can help their team right now. If I'm [picking] in the late first round and I'm trying to win a championship next season, I don't want a 19-year-old who was on a bad Duke team last year."
Strawther, Timme and the Zags take on Pepperdine Saturday before a big week against San Diego and Saint Mary's to close out the WCC regular season. If Strawther continues playing like this, Gonzaga will once again be a really tough out in the NCAA Tournament.