Williams leads No. 9 Gonzaga over Loyola Marymount 76-46
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Loyola Marymount was short-handed and stood second-to-last in the West Coast Conference, but No. 9 Gonzaga wasn’t about to take them lightly.
The Zags scored the first 17 points of the game and cruised to a 76-46 victory on Thursday to retain at least a share of first place in the league.
Corey Kispert led a balanced attack with 14 points and five Bulldogs finished in double figures. Gonzaga scored the first 17 points and beat Loyola Marymount for the 18th straight time since 2010.
“We are at our best when we are in attack mode,” said Zach Norvell Jr., who finished with nine points for Gonzaga. “It’s getting to be crunch time. We are going to come out and play hard.”
Johnathan Williams had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Killian Tillie scored 12 points for Gonzaga (24-4, 14-1), which has won eight in a row.
“We all are really hitting our stride,” Kispert, who made 5 of 7 field goals, said.
He pointed to losses that other Top 25 teams had been suffering.
“Our job is to keep going forward,” Kispert said. “We didn’t want to let up tonight.”
Loyola Marymount played without two of their leading scorers, James Batemon and Steven Haney, who were out with injuries.
“Our two best players weren’t on the floor,” coach Mike Dunlap said. “That made a huge difference.”
Eli Scott scored 16 points for Loyola Marymount (8-18, 3-12).
The Lions shot 33 percent and committed 18 turnovers. Five Gonzaga players scored in double figures as the Bulldogs shot 51 percent.
Gonzaga put the Lions in a hole early, forcing Loyola Marymount into five turnovers during its opening burst. Scott scored the Lions’ first basket with 14:28 left in the first.
“Once we settled into the crowd and the atmosphere, it made a huge difference,” Dunlop said.
The Zags went on a 12-0 run, highlighted by Norvell’s steal and dunk, for a 31-7 lead with 5:33 left in the first. The Lions had just three field goals at that point and had missed 10 consecutive shots.
Gonzaga led 39-20 at halftime, after shooting 52 percent and forcing the Lions into 10 turnovers. Loyola Marymount shot just 29 percent (8 of 28) in the first.
Gonzaga’s shooting cooled off early in the second half, but it still led 54-34 with 12 minutes left in the game.
Tillie scored five points during a 15-0 run that put Gonzaga up 72-39.
“We had too many turnovers early on, but after that we held form,” Dunlop said. “We wanted to limit turnovers.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few praised his defense.
“We jumped them pretty good,” Few said. “We didn’t suffer any drop in intensity.”
DOUBLE THE FUN
Williams recorded his fifth consecutive double-double for Gonzaga. “One of his gifts is what an exceptional rebounder he is,” Few said.
FUN WITH STATS
Gonzaga went 17 of 26 from the free throw line, while Loyola Marymount went 11 of 15. The Zags converted 18 Loyola turnovers into 23 points.
The Lions made just 3 of 18 from 3-point range, while Gonzaga hit 7 of 24.
Loyola Marymount: The Lions rank first in the league in forcing 13.9 turnovers per game, but that is not translating into wins. The Lions also average 12.8 offensive rebounds per game.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs came in tied with No. 15 Saint Mary’s for first in the WCC. Six Bulldogs average at least 10 points per game, and they average a program-record 85.7 points per game. No. 3 Villanova is the only other team that has six players averaging double figures.
Loyola Marymount plays at San Francisco on Saturday.
Gonzaga hosts last-place Pepperdine on Saturday.
More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25