SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Known for its offense, Gonzaga has shown that it can win by playing strong defense lately.
Zach Norvell Jr. scored 17 points and the No. 5 Bulldogs beat Loyola Marymount 73-55 on Thursday night, the eighth consecutive win for the Bulldogs since a pair of losses knocked them out of the top spot in The AP Top 25.
Loyola Marymount used a slow-down offense to keep the scoring low, but the Zags were even stingier.
“We relied on our defense tonight,” Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins said.
Opposing teams are concerned about an offense that averages 92 points per game, and try to reduce the possessions, Perkins said.
“They took their time with shots,” Perkins said of the Lions. “They were trying to slow it down.”
Defense is “something we take seriously in practice,” Perkins said. “We struggled with it in non-conference.”
Brandon Clarke added 13 points, Corey Kispert 12 and Rui Hachimura 10 for Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0 West Coast), which beat Loyola Marymount for the 20th straight time. The Zags have won 18 straight games at home.
James Batemon led Loyola Marymount (13-5, 1-3) with 12 points.
“We gave up too many easy baskets in transition and in the post,” Loyola coach Mike Dunlap said of his team’s 42-24 deficit on points in the paint.
When his team trailed by 20 points, “we could have let the game go, but we didn’t,” Dunlap said. “The heart was there.”
Gonzaga led just 17-16 midway through the first half.
The Zags went on a 19-6 run the rest of the half to take a 36-22 lead at halftime. The Lions shot only 36 percent in the first and committed 11 turnovers.
A 3-pointer by Norvell highlighted a 14-2 Gonzaga run to open the second half that lifted the Bulldogs to a 50-24 lead. Meanwhile, the Lions were missing eight of their first 10 shots.
Loyola Marymount made just five of its first 20 shots in the second half, and fell behind 61-35 with less than 8 minutes left.
“I was pleased by the defensive effort,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
The Zags forced 17 turnovers, but committed 16 turnovers themselves.
“They are a quick-handed, aggressive team,” Few said. “I think we were casual with the ball.”
“You can’t go on the road and have as many turnovers as we did and expect to win,” Dunlap said.
Loyola shot 38.2 percent for the game (21 of 55). Gonzaga shot 50.9 percent, a little below its average. The Zags made just 7 of 23 from 3-point range.
Brandon Clarke made all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 13 points for Gonzaga. He added four assists and three blocked shots.
Gonzaga had a 14-0 advantage on fast break points.
Loyola Marymount: The Lions opened the season 11-1, but has gone 2-4 since … The Lions ranked 13th in the NCAA in defense at 61.2 points per game … Their last win in this lop-sided series was in 2010. They have not won in Spokane since 1991 … The Lions have already surpassed last season’s 11 wins.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are cruising toward another WCC title, outscoring conference foes by nearly 30 points per game… The Zags suffered back-to-back losses to No. 3 Tennessee and at No. 13 North Carolina in mid-December and have not lost since … They lead the nation in field goal shooting at 52.6 percent and are second in scoring at 92.2 points per game … Gonzaga and Marquette are the only programs with both men’s and women’s teams in the Top 15.
Loyola Marymount hosts Pepperdine on Saturday.
Gonzaga plays at last place Portland on Saturday.