“We’re up there,” Bulldogs guard Gary Bell Jr. said after the sixth-ranked Bulldogs pounded Loyola Marymount, 74-55, Saturday night.
“We can compete with anyone in the country on a given night,” senior guard Mike Hart said.
Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos both scored 20 points in Gonzaga’s sixth straight win. Elias Harris added 16 points and 10 rebounds to help offset the 30-point effort of Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland.
Ireland, a junior point guard, tied the career high he set Nov. 22 against Oral Roberts. Ireland received warm applause when he left the game with a minute to go, and some of the 6,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation at the sold-out McCarthey Athletic Center.
“That was such a good feeling,” Ireland said.
The first-place Bulldogs (23-2 overall, 10-0 West Coast Conference) tuned up for Thursday’s key contest at second-place Saint Mary’s (8 p.m., ESPN2) by dominating inside against the last-place Lions (8-16, 1-10). The 5-foot-10 Ireland could do little to counter Gonzaga’s 43-29 advantage on the boards, but the scrappy youngster tried.
“He’s a really good player,” Bell said. “Hard to stop.”
“He’s an old-school basketball player,” LMU coach Max Good said. “… He’s a tough little guy. He gets knocked down more than anybody in the league. He gets beat up like a pinball. He never complains. He never cries. … He’s a great human being, too.”
Loyola Marymount shot 29.8 percent from the field. Ireland’s 8-for-20 shooting contrasted with his teammates’ 9-for-37 accuracy. None of them scored more than eight points.
Ireland ranked second in the WCC and 16th in NCAA Division I going into games Saturday with 19.8 points per game. Olynyk, third nationally in field-goal shooting percentage, missed one shot (7-of-8 shooting from the field, 6-of-6 from the line.
Ireland was a gracious loser after the Lions’ eighth loss in a row.
“They’re a well-oiled machine out there,” Ireland said. “They have a great offense – so many threats out there. They’re super well-coached.
“They know how to play the right way. Their basketball IQ is very high. They destroy teams on both ends of the court.”
Good embraced counterpart Mark Few at the end of the game.
“I told Mark after the game how much I respect what they do,” Good said. “They have a good coaching staff, and they’re good people.”
Gonzaga led 36-25 at the half despite some uncharacteristically sloppy play that led to 11 turnovers before intermission.