SPOKANE — Gonzaga coach Mark Few is aware of the slew of losses that befell the teams ranked above No. 6 Gonzaga this week. Still, he refused to speculate if his team would break into the top five on Monday.
“My 10-year-old follows that pretty close,” Few joked Saturday, after Gonzaga beat Loyola Marymount 74-55 for its sixth straight win.
Few is more concerned with the quality season his team is putting together, and the tough opponents Gonzaga has beaten during its best start since the 2003-04 season.
“The biggest barometer is we’ve had a lot of great wins,” Few said. “And those teams we beat are out there winning games, too.”
He is pleased that his team has stayed focused.
“Everybody is tired. Everybody is beat up,” Few said. “You’ve got to get mentally tough to win these games.
Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk each scored 20 points for Gonzaga (23-2, 10-0 West Coast). Elias Harris added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Zags, who should benefit from losses by No. 1 Indiana, No. 3 Michigan and No. 5 Kansas this week.
Anthony Ireland tied a career high with 30 points for lead cold-shooting Loyola Marymount (8-16, 1-10), which has lost eight straight games and is last in the league.
Gonzaga outrebounded Loyola 43-29, and its front line of Olynyk and Harris dominated the Lions.
“Today we got back to attacking from the inside out,” Few said.
The Zags have held seven consecutive opponents to less than 70 points.
“We’re clamping down and paying more attention to details,” guard Mike Hart said. “We’re not just trying to outscore people.”
Hart said the losses by the top five teams were “a wakeup call to us” to play strong defense.
Loyola Marymount, playing its third game in six days, has lost seven straight times to Gonzaga since their last win in 2010. But they have lost 23 straight times in Spokane, dating to 1992.
“At least we didn’t shoot crazily,” said Loyola coach Max Good, whose team lost to Gonzaga at home by 45 points earlier this season. “We didn’t shoot early in the shot clock. We worked and made them play defense for a while.”
Good said his team has no answer for Olynyk and Harris.
“I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to play against anybody else if they are better than (Olynyk and Harris) are,” Good said.
Olynyk was 7 of 8 from the floor and made all six of his free throws, and Pangos hit four 3-pointers.
Gonzaga’s only losses this season are to Illinois, which this week beat No. 1 Indiana, and No. 14 Butler.
Loyola took its only lead at 8-7, but Gonzaga rode a pair of 3-pointers by Pangos to a 17-13 advantage.
Ireland scored 13 early points to keep the Lions close, as Loyola trailed just 19-17 after 10 minutes. Gonzaga had seven turnovers in that time.
Then Olynyk scored eight close-range points during a 12-4 Gonzaga run for a 31-21 lead.
Gonzaga led 36-25 at halftime, after shooting 55 percent while holding Loyola to 22 percent (7 of 31). The Lions stayed in the game by making all 10 of their free throws, and benefited from 11 Gonzaga turnovers that led to 12 points.
Loyola’s Ashley Hamilton hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, but Gonzaga responded with an 18-6 run, seven of the points by Pangos, that lifted the Bulldogs to a 54-34 lead with 11 minutes left.
Ireland scored eight straight Lions’ points, but they trailed 63-44 with seven minutes left. Loyola did not threaten after that.
Gonzaga shot 51 percent in the game to 29 percent for Loyola.
Gonzaga’s 23-2 start is the best since the 2003-04 team opened 28-2.
Gonzaga is 117-8 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.