No. 1 Gonzaga looks to sharpen game vs. Loyola Marymount

Top-ranked Gonzaga will attempt to set a school record with its 51st consecutive home victory when it faces Loyola Marymount in West Coast Conference play on Saturday night at Spokane, Wash.

The Bulldogs tied the mark Thursday with a 89-75 win over Santa Clara in a game that had a closer margin than expected.

However, Gonzaga coach Mark Few was fine with a result that represented his team’s 20th consecutive double-digit victory.

“It’s not easy to get up for every single one of them,” Few said. “I think our squad has done an unbelievable job to this point of doing that, and (Thursday night) we got beat to some balls, especially early at inopportune times, and they took full advantage of it.”

Gonzaga (23-0, 14-0 WCC) also will be looking to stretch its national-best winning streak to 28 games when it battles the Lions (12-7, 7-4).

The Bulldogs have won 23 straight games against Loyola Marymount and also have won the past 30 home matchups. The Lions last won in Spokane, 91-79, on Feb. 7, 1991.

Gonzaga is 44-3 against Loyola Marymount in Few’s 22 seasons.

The Lions are improved from recent seasons under first-year coach Stan Johnson and have won five of their past six games after posting an 81-74 road win over Pepperdine on Thursday.

Loyola Marymount would create national shockwaves with another victory on Saturday, but the program hasn’t defeated a ranked team since upsetting No. 16 Saint Mary’s 75-60 on Feb. 15, 2012.

The Lions displayed good balance in the win over Pepperdine as Keli Leaupepe recorded 17 points and eight rebounds, Jalin Anderson added 16 points and Mattias Markusson had 15.

This season’s success has been pleasing to Leaupepe, who hasn’t forgotten that the Lions were predicted to finish seventh in the 10-team WCC.

“We like to use it as fuel for the fire,” Leaupepe said. “We want to prove everyone wrong.”

Leaupepe ranks third on the Lions in scoring at 10.7 points. Eli Scott leads in both scoring (17.5) and rebounding (7.7) while Dameane Douglas ranks second in both (13.5, 7.3).

Gonzaga will be looking to put together a sharper outing than what occurred against Santa Clara.

The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and didn’t take their first lead until Aaron Cook sank a free throw to make it 20-19 with 10 minutes left. Gonzaga led 40-38 at halftime thanks to a 3-pointer by Joel Ayayi with 35 seconds left — a shot that gave the Zags the lead for good.

Star Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs said there was nothing about Santa Clara’s game that led to the closer outcome. He said it was all on his squad.

“In the beginning, we just went through the motions. They played with a lot more passion to start the game,” Suggs said. “After they made that run, that just kind of lit a fire under us and woke us up. From then on, I think we made a lot of good plays.”

Suggs had 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in his latest strong performance. Corey Kispert led the Bulldogs with 25 points, and Drew Timme added 18.

Kispert averages a team-best 19.3 points with Timme right behind at 19. Suggs averages 14 points and 4.4 assists.

–Field Level Media

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