Loyola Marymount-Gonzaga Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- With a favorable matchup preceding a pair of potentially challenging conference road contests next week, Gonzaga is not about to take anything for granted.
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs look to remain undefeated in the West Coast Conference and pick up a 23rd straight home victory over reeling Loyola Marymount on Saturday.
After surviving a scare to win 65-63 at San Diego last Saturday, Gonzaga (22-2, 9-0) left little in doubt while rolling to an 82-56 home victory over Pepperdine on Thursday to continue its best league start since finishing 14-0 in 2008-09.
"We don't relax for any game," said guard Kevin Pangos, who went 4 of 9 from 3-point range and scored a team-high 14 points. "I saw (Thursday) that Illinois beat (No. 1) Indiana. It happens. We can't let that happen to us."
With losses already this week by the Hoosiers, No. 2 Florida and No. 5 Kansas, Gonzaga may find itself in the top 3 if it can get a sixth consecutive victory Saturday.
Though Loyola Marymount (8-15, 1-9) has lost seven straight for its longest skid in four seasons, the Bulldogs expect to be focused while trying to build more momentum for road dates at Saint Mary's and San Francisco - the sites of two of their three league defeats last season.
"Every game is important for where we want to get to," Pangos said.
Gonzaga broke out to a 14-2 lead Thursday and stepped up defensively, forcing 21 turnovers and holding the Waves to 36.2 percent shooting. The Bulldogs' last six conference opponents have averaged 54.3 points and shot 36.6 percent.
"Offense can be up and down," Pangos said. "Defensively, if we can get (Thursday's) performance every single game, we are tough to beat."
Gonzaga enjoyed perhaps its most dominant defensive performance of the season when it held Loyola Marymount to 25.0 percent shooting and outrebounded the Lions 46-31 in an 88-43 road rout Jan. 31.
"I'm sure that they are hearing it from their coaches because we kind of handled them," Gonzaga guard Kyle Dranginis said. "But they are definitely going to give us a game. We've got to prepare like it's any other game."
Only Gonzaga's 24-game home winning streak over San Francisco is longer against a conference foe than its current run of dominance when hosting Loyola Marymount. The Lions, who last won at Gonzaga 91-79 on Feb. 7, 1991, have lost by at least 16 in each of their last six visits to Spokane while allowing the Bulldogs to hit more than half of their shots every time.
"There is some real talent on that team and we have to approach that game like we do any other," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "You know, what happened down there in Loyola kind of snowballed a little bit. We have to make sure we come out and approach it like we did the first one."
The Lions' most talented player is guard Anthony Ireland, who ranks second in the WCC averaging 19.8 points. He scored 19 against the Bulldogs last month and 23 on 9-of-15 shooting in last season's 78-59 loss at Gonzaga.
Ireland finished with 21 on Thursday at Portland, but the Lions dropped to 0-5 on the road in conference play with a 69-60 loss.
Updated February 8, 2013