This past Saturday, LMU welcomed the No. 1 basketball program in the nation, Gonzaga, to Gersten Pavilion for the Lions’ third game of West Coast Conference (WCC) play this season. Heading into the game, LMU had split its two previous WCC matchups — a win at home against the University of San Diego and a road loss to Brigham Young University. In front of a lively crowd at Gersten, the Lions fell to the heavily favored visiting Zags by a score of 87-62.
The annual game in Gersten against Gonzaga is arguably the biggest date on the LMU athletic calendar each year. It represents an opportunity to make national headlines with an upset against one of the nation’s perennial college basketball juggernauts. The energy in Gersten matched the occasion. The arena was nearly filled to the brim with Lion and Zag fans alike.
Nearly 10 years have elapsed since LMU bested their Spokane-based rivals. The last Lion victory came at home in February 2010, in a game that finished 74-66 in LMU’s favor.
With a chance to break an almost 10-year losing streak, the Eli Scott-led Lions took the court against the Zags. Early on, the LMU offense had trouble piercing the interior Gonzaga defense and getting to the rim. As the Lions were having trouble scoring, Gonzaga jumped out of the gate with an early lead. Halfway through the first half, the Zags held a commanding 17-6 lead.
LMU then went on its best run of the game, clawing back to within five points of the Zags. However, the hope of vanquishing their deficit did not last long for the Lions. Gonzaga quickly took back command of the game, heading into the half up 38-22. Although LMU posted a respectable defensive first-half performance, their offense was left short of ideas, and the scoreboard reflected that.
Heading into the second half, the Lions had a significant deficit to overcome. Their scoring improved after the break, putting away 40 total second-half points compared to their total of 22 from the first period. However, it was never enough to get within reach of the Zags.
The Lions nearly got within single digits of Gonzaga about a little less than halfway through the second half after Erik Johansson’s two free throws trimmed the visitor’s lead down to 11. However, the Zags quickly snuffed out any hope of a Lion comeback and dominated affairs from then on. The game continued to end in a 25-point Gonzaga victory with a score of 87-62.
If there is one positive LMU can take away from this game, it’s that Eli Scott put up another impressive performance. For a young program in transition, Scott has served as this team’s leader. The junior forward-turned-guard has been the Lions’ standout player so far this season.
Against the best opponent he has faced so far, Scott put up respectable numbers. He was the top scorer of anyone on the court, dropping 20 total points. He was also incredibly efficient with his scoring. Scott made nine of the 13 field goals he attempted. On top of the scoring he contributed, the guard also added five rebounds and three assists.
Scott rose to the occasion against Gonzaga. If the Lions hope to be competitive against the rest of the WCC, he will have to do the same every week.
LMU continues conference play this week with games against Pepperdine and the University of San Francisco. The Lions will travel up to Malibu on Thursday, Jan. 16, to renew their rivalry with the Waves. Two days later, LMU will travel up north for a road game against San Francisco.