A close game might have been just what the doctor ordered for the No. 2 team in the nation.
Before edging San Francisco 83-79 on Sunday, Gonzaga had defeated its previous six opponents by an average of 31.7 points.
One of those wins came against the Loyola Marymount Lions, who travel to Spokane on Thursday to take on the Bulldogs, who have won 35 straight home games.
Gonzaga (23-1, 9-0 West Coast Conference) has beaten the Lions 22 straight times, including an 87-62 win on Jan. 11. Under Mark Few, the Bulldogs are 43-3 against LMU (8-15, 2-7).
Admon Gilder and Drew Timme provided some firepower off the bench to key the January win. Timme scored eight points and Gilder added six in the first half to help the Bulldogs break open a close game and take a 16-point lead at intermission.
Timme, a freshman, was the difference in Gonzaga’s win against the Dons, getting the start in place of an injured Killian Tillie and scoring 19 points. Tillie’s status for Thursday remains in limbo but watching Timme take over against San Francisco is comforting to the Zags.
“He stepped up big-time,” Filip Petrusev told the Spokesman Review. “We knew Killian wasn’t going to play and he took it on himself to contribute. We trust him, too.”
Timme’s defense impressed Few, who cited the freshman’s smothering man coverage and three blocked shots as the keys to the win.
“He got down and moved his feet on some switches, came over and blocked a shot and just was active and making plays,” Few said.
“I thought that was huge, especially when they were going small. He was something that we could go to, and then he was still delivering at the other end, too.”
Petrusev also delivered on the other end, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 boards.
The Lions are young; there are seven freshmen on the roster and one junior-college transfer. In the first meeting with Gonzaga, they might have been a bit too anxious, especially after falling behind late in the first half, coach Mike Dunlap told dailynews.com.
“You’re putting a lot of pressure on your defense,” Dunlap said, when shots don’t fall.
Dunlap will be counting on junior Eli Scott and his JC transfer Ivan Alipiev to carry the load on both offense and defense as LMU faces an uphill battle on the road against the highest scoring team in the country.
Scott gave the Bulldogs fits in the first meeting, going 9 of 13 from the field and scoring 20 points. He’s blossomed and embraced his role as a team leader.
Adjusting to his new role is “not very difficult,” Scott recently told dailynews.com.
“Coach has confidence in me. He told me he believes in me, and that makes it easier for me.”
Alipiev added 11 points, taking all eight shots from 3-point range and making three in the loss to Gonzaga. He’s taken 96 shots from beyond the arc and made just 29.2 percent.
“Ivan, he’s a sophomore who didn’t play last year, and he’s teething,” Dunlap said.
Gonzaga enters play averaging 88.6 points a game while the Lions score just 65.5 points. The Bulldogs are allowing 67.2 each outing; the Lions give up 67.8 points a game.
–Field Level Media