Los Angeles, CA (Feb. 5) - It was another classic at Gersten Pavilion, as Loyola Marymount men's basketball defeated West Coast Conference leader Gonzaga, 67-61, in WCC action late Monday night. In a game that featured 17 lead changes and 12 ties, the Lions took the lead for good on a pair of free throws with 3:01 remaining by senior Adoyah Miller and held on with clutch work at the charity stripe to send the crowd of 3,815 on to the floor at Gersten Pavilion Monday night.
The Lions were led by Miller with 21 points as the fifth-year senior hit 10-for-12 from the charity stripe. Senior Matthew Knight chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds while fellow fifth-year senior John Montgomery added a career-high for the second straight night with 12 points, including clutch free throws down the stretch. Josh Heytvelt led the Zags with 18 points.
LMU improves to 11-14 on the year and 3-6 in the WCC and snaps an eight-game skid to the Zags, last winning nearly four years to the day at Gersten Pavilion, 80-74 on Feb. 8, 2003. Gonzaga falls to 17-8 and 8-2.
"The guys have been working so hard in practice the last four weeks and it proves that you play like you practice. This was a big win for us," said Head Coach Rodney Tention. "This is the best this team has felt since we got here. We executed so well tonight. The guys really deserved this."
With the game tied at the half, the game would go back-and-forth the entire half. The largest lead by both teams was when Gonzaga took a 43-39 lead with 14:33 mark after a Jeremy Pargo three-pointer. Montgomery answered with one of his three long balls and then after a steal by Montgomery, Knight gave the Lions a 44-43 lead with 13:47 on the clock.
The tug-of-war continued as Gonzaga took the lead back on another Pargo three, the Lion retook the lead on a Corey Counts three. Heytvelt hit a three of his own to take the lead back and then several possessions later junior Jon Ziri's traditional three-point play game it back to LMU. LMU fnished 7-for-13 (53.8 percent) from the three-point line while Gonzaga went 8-for-19 (42.1 percent).
Down by a pair, 54-52, Montgomery hit another three pointer and Knight hit one of two free throws to give the Lions a two-point edge, 56-54 with 6:53 on the clock. A Pargo lay-up and one of two free throws by Heytvelt gave Gonzaga their final lead of the game with 3:44 remaining, 57-56.
From that point, the Lions out did one of the best free throw shooting teams in the nation, hitting their final nine points from the charity stripe. Miller was fouled by Pargo with 3:01 on the clock and hit both to give LMU a 58-57 lead. It proved to be the game winner.
After a Knight rebound on a Matt Bouldin miss, he was fouled and hit both free throws to give LMU a 60-57 lead. On the next possession, LMU forced Gonzaga into a tough three-pointer by Bouldin and Knight made the board with 1:11 remaining.
LMU put a tighter grip on the game as Knight got an offensive rebounds off his own miss with 34 seconds remaining, forcing Gonzaga to foul. Montgomery hit one of two to give LMU a two possession lead with :31 remaining.
"That was the biggest free throw of my life," said Montgomery, who added two assists, two rebounds and a steal. "We knew if we played the way we are capable of, and execute the way we have been practicing we could get this one."
The Lions went 6-for-6 in the final 23 seconds to win it. Montgomery hit a pair and Miller hit the last four. They finished 22-for-29 at the stripe (75.9 percent) while Gonzaga went 7-for-14, a mirror image of how they have done on the season. Gonzaga came into the game tops in the WCC and one of the best nationally at 78.1 percent while LMU entered ranked seventh in the eight-team conference at 67.2 percent.
"We have been gaining confidence as a team the last several weeks, and that was evident at the line," said Tention. "We did a really good job of putting ourselves in the position to go to the line by being patient in our offense."
While the Lions offense finished the game shooting just 38.8 percent, LMU held the league's best shooting team to 44.2 percent and nearly 20 points below their average. The Lions scored 11 points off 14 Gonzaga turnovers as junior Damian Martin added three steals with his four assists and eight rebounds. He also helped the Lions hold WCC leading scorer Derick Raivio to seven points below his average with 11.