No. 7 Gonzaga advances to WCC semifinals
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gonzaga was sluggish early in the West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal against Loyola Marymount on Saturday night.
That slow start lingered into the second half letting the Lions hang around until there were 10 minutes to play.
Hot shooting and rebounding eventually got No. 7 Gonzaga going.
Killian Tillie scored 24 points, including making all five 3-point attempts, while Johnathan Williams added 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead Gonzaga to an 83-69 victory.
Top-seeded Gonzaga plays fourth-seeded San Francisco on Monday night in the semifinals.
“You look around the country, these first-round games are always tough,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who won his 40th game against LMU. “Loyola brought it and competed. (James) Batemon got going (for Loyola). We moved the ball in the second half. We adjusted.”
Zach Norvell Jr. had 17 points on 6 of 8 from the field as Gonzaga (28-4) could not pull away until there were 5 minutes left in the game, despite shooting 61 percent from the field, including 19 of 24 (79 percent) in the second half.
The Bulldogs also made 12 of 20 (60 percent) from 3-point range, while Tillie finished 9 of 12 from the field.
“Last couple months, I’ve been working on my shot,” he said. “They kept going in tonight. (Early), we weren’t moving the ball and they were taking it away.”
This was Bulldogs’ 12th straight win, and 15th at the WCC Tournament.
Batemon led eighth-seeded LMU (11-20) with 27 points, while Cameron Allen added 12 for the Lions, who had two four-point, first-half leads.
LIONS HANG AROUND:
Gonzaga trailed for a slight majority of the first half as there were eight lead changes and six ties in the game. But in the second half with their hot shooting, the Bulldogs built their largest lead at 18 with 2:09 left.
Sloppy play, missed shots in the paint, and 10 turnovers hampered Gonzaga in the first half. The Bulldogs’ 29 first-half points was their second-lowest output in that session this season.
Tillie scored 10 points, including a putback dunk with 4 seconds left, giving the Bulldogs a one-point halftime lead.
After one LMU second-half lead at 40-39, Gonzaga took the lead for good at 41-40 on a jumper by Tillie with 16:23 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs won the battle on the boards, 41-26, including 32-18 on the offensive end.
“Rebounding was the difference in the game. They got a lot of easy rebounds and baskets,” Loyola Marymount coach Mike Dunlap said. “I’m proud of the way we played tonight.”
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs lowest first-half output this season was 23 points in a loss at San Diego State on Dec. 21. The Bulldogs have won 15 straight in the WCC Tournament. Few is 35-5 in the tournament and 40-3 all-time against LMU. With a semifinal win Monday, Few will reach the title game in all 18 previous seasons.
LMU: Loyola Marymount had only seven turnovers in the game. The Lions had a season low six before Saturday in each of the past two games. Loyola Marymount outscored Gonzaga on points off turnovers, 18-3 and its bench 21-14.
“This was a great season in that it was a learning lesson,” Batemon said. “There’s an upward trend. Those seeds are there.”
The Bulldogs will play in the semifinals against San Francisco on Monday night.
“It will be tough. They play us tough,” Few said. “It will be a game a lot like this one.”
The Lions are unlikely to receive a postseason tournament invitation.
“This season, we lost a lot of one-possession games and losing close games, there’s drama, especially today with social media,” Dunlap said. “There was no drama with this team. Our team carried on.”