LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga has a number of ongoing streaks, but three take precedence for the immediate future.
The Zags have captured the past five WCC Tournament titles, carry a 14-game tourney winning streak and have advanced to the championship game for 20 consecutive seasons.
Top-seeded Gonzaga will try to do more of the same when it opens the 2018 tournament against No. 8 Loyola Marymount in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at Orleans Arena.
LMU (11-19) eliminated Portland 78-72 Friday behind James Batemon’s 29 points.
“You have to be tough, that’s the first thing,” Gonzaga assistant coach Brian Michaelson said. “They’re physical. They play extremely hard and they have the bodies to play that way. One through five, they have some of the biggest, strongest bodies in the league.”
The seventh-ranked Zags (27-4) won both regular-season meetings, 85-66 in Los Angeles and 76-46 in Spokane. Batemon sat out the rematch with turf toe and LMU’s offense sputtered without the junior point guard.
“Obviously we didn’t see them at full strength,” Michaelson said. “He’s making 3s, an incredible driver and really pushes the ball in transition, so that totally changes the team we saw in Spokane.”
Gonzaga senior forward Johnathan Williams had two double-doubles against the Lions, including a 30-point, 10-rebound effort in L.A.
“We understand who they are and their tradition, but you want to be in these situations,” Lions coach Mike Dunlap said. “The things you have to do in order to give yourself a chance to win are take care of the ball, play with them on the boards and field-goal percentage. We have to find a way to take good shots.
“What they do, like Saint Mary’s, is play in spurts. You’re hanging around and make two mistakes and you’re down 10.”
The Lions have won three straight. Forward Eli Scott is averaging 13 points and 7.4 rebounds. Scott’s 88 offensive boards leads the WCC. Mattias Markusson, a 7-foot-3 center, averaged 9.1 points and 6.7 rebounds in conference play.