First vs. worst in the WCC, as Zags visit Lions

Jan 17, 2015 - 3:47 PM Los Angeles, CA ( - A pair of teams at opposite ends of the West Coast Conference standings get together on Saturday afternoon, as the Lions of Loyola Marymount play host to the third-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Gonzaga ran its winning streak to 10 in a row on Thursday night by slipping past Pepperdine on the road, 78-76. As a result, the Bulldogs improved to 17-1 overall and 6-0 in conference. Their lone blemish this season took place at Arizona back on Dec. 6, and the squad will be trying to move to 7-1 in true road games with a victory today.

Loyola Marymount notched an 80-68 win at home over Portland on Thursday to put the brakes on a five-game slide and give the team its first win in six tries against WCC competition. The Lions are a game under .500 at home (4-5), and they had lost four in a row at Gersten Pavilion prior to the victory over the Pilots.

Gonzaga owns a 63-21 lead in the all-time series with Loyola Marymount, and the Bulldogs have won the last 10 meetings.

Gonzaga was in a real dogfight at Pepperdine two nights back, as both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field while taking very good care of the basketball in combining for only 17 turnovers. The Zags claimed a 34-29 edge on the glass, and they drained 6-of-12 3-point attempts on the night. Kyle Wiltjer led all scorers with 24 points, while Domantas Sabonis came off the bench to log a double-double consisting of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Silas Nelson also made the most of his limited minutes as a reserve, netting 11 points thanks to a perfect 4-of-4 shooting effort, which included a pair of treys.

Wiltjer raised his team-leading scoring average to 16.8 ppg, and he is followed in double figures by four others, including Przemek Karnowski (11.1 ppg) and Sabonis (10.0 ppg), who each grab 6.2 rpg to spearhead Gonzaga's effort on the glass, which results in a +10.0 rebounding margin. As a team, the Bulldogs are lighting up the scoreboard for 82.4 ppg, thanks to shooting efforts of .530 overall, .403 out on the perimeter and .703 at the foul line. Conversely, foes are converting only 39.1 percent of their total shots, with 31.9 percent of their 3-point tries being successful. They average just 61.8 ppg.

Ayodeji Egbeyemi poured in a career-high 22 points and Marin Mornar registered a double-double with a career-best 21 points and 10 rebounds, as Loyola Marymount knocked off Portland on Thursday night. The Lions made good on 51 percent of their field goal attempts, and that included a sizzling 8-of-12 performance from 3-point range. As for the Pilots, they shot a mere 39.4 percent from the floor, missing the mark on 19 of their 27 long-range launches along the way. LMU went an impressive 20-of-26 at the free-throw line, and also used a 39-33 rebounding advantage to offset the 15 turnovers it committed.

Evan Payne scored just seven points in 23 minutes of action off the bench in Thursday's game, but he still serves as the only player averaging double figures for the Lions this season. In fact, Payne is one of the top scorers in the West Coast Conference, currently ranking third at 19.2 ppg. Six others net between 5.0 and 9.7 ppg, helping Loyola Marymount generate 63.8 ppg. The team's defensive effort yields 69.8 ppg, and it is shooting nearly as well as the opposition for the most part. Carelessness with the basketball has been a real issue for the Lions, as they turn it over 15 times per outing. They are however, +2.1 in rebounding differential.

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