GAME NOTES: Trying to stay within striking distance of the top spot in the West Coast Conference standings, the Lions of Loyola Marymount confront the Pilots from the University of Portland at the Chiles Center tonight.
With a record of 8-3 in WCC play, the Lions are tied with BYU for third place in the league standings as they trail only Saint Mary's-CA and Gonzaga. The team slipped by San Francisco last Saturday, 90-88, for its third straight wins and the fifth in the last six outings overall.
Meanwhile, the Pilots have just one win in their last eight outings, that coming against Santa Clara last week by a score of 84-78. Unfortunately, two days later, Portland was sent reeling by BYU in a 79-60 setback at home to fall to 3-8 in conference, which has the Pilots sitting in seventh place in the WCC.
LMU leads the all-time series between these two teams by a count of 44-41, thanks to a 62-59 win in the first meeting of the season less than two weeks ago in California.
The Lions trailed by double digits against San Francisco over the weekend, but then the team exploded for 60-second half points as they made good on a staggering 10-of-13 behind the three-point line to grab the victory by a scant two points. Drew Viney dropped in 20 points, followed by Jarred DuBois with 17, Anthony Ireland 15 points and Ashley Hamilton 13 as the team finished the night with 48.l3 percent shooting from the floor overall. Viney leads four players in double figures through 24 games, although he's appeared in just 14, posting 15.7 ppg on the strength of his 46.0 percent shooting behind the three-point line. Ireland checks in with 15.1 ppg and is also the one who gets his teammates involved the most with his 117 assists. Defensively, the Lions enter this week as one of the nation's top three-point shooting defenses, allowing opponents to make good on only 28.9 percent of their chances.
The defense for the Pilots held BYU to a mere 35.2 percent shooting from the floor, including 3-of-16 behind the three-point line. However, Portland ended up turning the ball over a staggering 25 times and sent the Cougars to the free-throw line for an incredible 53 attempts, of which the visitors made good on 38 in order to take the 19-point win. Kevin Bailey finished with 15 points for the hosts, while Ryan Nicholas tacked on eight points and 11 rebounds in the losing cause. The Pilots are scoring just 65.3 ppg at this point in the season, but at the same time giving up 76.3 ppg so it is easy to see why this group has a total of just six victories in 24 opportunities. The only player to have started every game for the program, Nicholas is responsible for 11.2 ppg and stands as the only one in double figures, adding 7.7 rpg which also paces the group.
For all the years that the Lions have been beaten up by the rest of the WCC, now is the time for them to exact some revenge and seeing as how the team is 7-2 on the road, it shouldn't be that tough of a time for them in Oregon tonight.