LAS VEGAS--Loyola Marymount looked like they had their fourth and largest upset in the works at halftime but then they played the second half.
No. 1 and top-seeded Gonzaga used a big run to begin the second half to pull away from LMU and win the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal game 66-48 on Saturday.
Gonzaga (30-2) will play in its 15th consecutive WCC Tournament championship game on Monday night against either Saint Mary’s or San Diego.
“I thought we played excellent defense all night especially in the second half,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “We finally got our offense going in the second half.”
The Bulldogs have not played since last Saturday against Portland and came out flat. They shot a mere 37 percent in the first half but completely turned it around in the second.
After Ireland hit a three to tie the game at 29, Kevin Pangos hit one of his own. On the next Gonzaga possession, Pangos hit a floater in the lane to push the Gonzaga lead to three. Then a LMU led to a wide open three for Gary Bell, Jr.
Pangos had 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
Gonzaga opened the second half on a 19-5 run and took LMU completely out of the game, ending the Lions’ three-game tournament winning streak.
Harris led the way for Gonzaga with 21 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and two steals.
“I think we came out with more emotion,” Harris said. “We came out flat, didn’t play with emotion and in the second half we changed that.”
Gonzaga held LMU to 24 percent shooting in the second half and 30 percent for the game.
WCC Player of the Year Kelly Olynyk had eight points on 3-for-10 shooting and eight rebounds.
Ninth-seeded LMU (11-23) had its season ended by Gonzaga after the Lions had already won three games in three days to reach the semifinals.
“These guys will tell you I predicted and thought, LMU is a bunch of fighters,” Few said. “They’re tough. I think all of us in the league have been waiting for them to get heading in the right direction because they got athletic, tough strong guys that can match up with our bigs.”
“They need to be commended for making a great run here after what they went through in the regular season.”
LMU got off to another slow start. It took nearly five minutes before the Lions were finally able to get on the board but Gonzaga was unable to take advantage.
Gonzaga only scored five points in the first five minutes and scuffled all half. The Bulldogs shot 37 percent in the half.
LMU hung around and eventually put together a 9-0 run, including four points from Nick Stover, to take a 14-9 lead. Stover had eight points in the first half.
But Gonzaga would battle back and retook the lead after a pair of free throws from Harris. The Lions responded and retook the lead at 21-20.
Harris converted on a layup and free throw, which gave Gonzaga the 23-21 lead. Then Ireland hit a tough three from the corner to give the Lions the lead again.
The lead changed hands eight times in the half.
Ashley Hamilton played only 13 minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls in the half.