GAME NOTES: Undefeated at home, the BYU Cougars try to keep the good times rolling on Thursday as they open up their West Coast Conference slate against the Lions of Loyola Marymount at the Marriott Center in Provo.
Hitting the hardwood for the first time since Dec. 29, the Cougars are hoping to follow up their 97-71 dismantling of Virginia Tech in Salt Lake City with another strong performance tonight. BYU has now won two straight games and five of its last six, not to mention 10 in a row at home dating back to last season.
Meanwhile, the Lions have also won two straight games and are seeking their first three-game win streak of the season. The squad defeated Cal State Bakersfield last weekend in a 73-66 final, two days after topping Morgan State (79-62) in order to move one game over .500 on the season.
The Lions lead the all-time series against BYU by a count of 3-2, thanks in part to an 82-68 victory in the most recent encounter last January.
Against the Roadrunners, LMU had its hands full in a meeting that featured eight ties and 11 lead changes. The Lions knocked down 56.8 percent from the floor, including 6-of-12 beyond the arc, but just 17-of-26 (.654) at the free- throw line which made the game closer than it should have been. Anthony Ireland finished with a game-high 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, while Ashley Hamilton and Ayodeji Egbeyemi finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively, the latter clearing a game-high nine rebounds as well. Ireland, who was a perfect 3-of-3 beyond the arc and 8-of-9 from both the floor and the charity stripe against CSUB, continues to be one of the top scorers in the country with his 21.3 ppg, shooting a sizzling 44.2 percent out on the perimeter. Hamilton (14.8 ppg) and Egbeyemi (11.3 ppg) have not only proven to be tough matchups from the outside where they are shooting better than 40 percent, and the three of them are combining for more than 20 rpg at the moment as well.
BYU scored the first points of the game against the Hokies at EnergySolutions Arena and never looked back, shooting 60 percent from the floor in the first half en route to the 26-point victory. Tyler Haws erupted for a career-high 42 points, hitting 6-of-8 shots beyond the arc, followed by Brandon Davies and Josh Sharp with 17 and 10 points, respectively. Haws, who was recently named the WCC Player of the Week, set a BYU sophomore record for points in a single game as he logged his eighth game with at least 20 points and has now led the team in scoring in six outings. Haws is now leading the team in scoring overall with 20.9 ppg, but to forget about Davies would be a big mistake since he is putting up 20.1 ppg, scoring in double figures in 21 straight, and also leads the team on the glass with almost eight rebounds per game. He has also accounted for 22 of its 48 blocked shots. BYU is producing a hefty 78.1 ppg at the moment, while holding the competition to 69.0 ppg.
A battle between two of the top rebounding teams in the country is sure to have a lot of action in the paint, but with LMU's top scorers shooting so well from the perimeter, that might be where the game is eventually won.