Grand Canyon (0-0) vs. Loyola Marymount (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 8, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100) -- San Diego, California. Television: None. Home Record: Grand Canyon 0-0, LMU 0-0. Away Record: Grand Canyon 0-0, LMU 0-0. Neutral Record: Grand Canyon 0-0, LMU 0-0. Conference Record: Grand Canyon 0-0, LMU 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAMES NOTES: The Loyola Marymount Lions get the privilege of welcoming the Grand Canyon Antelopes to the Division I ranks when the two squads battle at Jenny Craig Pavilion as part of the USD Classic.
This is a big year for Grand Canyon as it takes a step into the Western Athletic Conference for its first season as a Division I program. Though the Antelopes can't compete for the conference title there's a chance they could surprise some teams this year after going 23-8 overall a year ago. Making the Antelopes that much more interesting is who will be patrolling the bench. Known for splashing 3-pointers in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns, Dan Majerle is back in the area as he begins his first season as head coach for Grand Canyon. Three starters are back and Majerele was able to fit in a few transfers from bigger programs to complement the returning talent.
Max Good got the Lions to a 21-13 record in 2012, its best mark since 1990, but last year the wheels fell off the cart. Due in part to injuries the Lions struggled for much of the campaign, managing just an 11-23 overall record and just a single win in 16 tries against the rest of the West Coast Conference. That made the team's run to the WCC Tournament championship game that much more impressive, although the Lions were outclassed in that contest, a 66-48 setback to Gonzaga. Good is now in his fifth full season at the helm for the Lions. None of the last nine coaches has lasted past a fifth year so this is clearly a crucial campaign for Good.
There is going to be a lot of firsts for Grand Canyon this year and that includes this game as it will be the first the Antelopes have ever played against LMU.
Majerle is going to have to find go-to scorers right away to get Grand Canyon going offensively. Leading scorer Joshua Lowery (13.3 ppg) has moved, leaving Killian Larson (11.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg) as the top returning scoring threat. Larson is a constant double-double threat, which is a nice piece to have, but he isn't a very versatile scorer. Other returning starters that will be leaned on heavily are Justin Foreman (7.5 ppg) and Jerome Garrison (8.2 ppg), who will each be called on to be leaders for the team in more ways than one. Reliable reserves Blake Davis (4.3 ppg) and Jeff Lowery (3.0 ppg) will more than likely be thrust into more minutes as well. Jeremy Adams wasn't an overly productive guard at Colorado but he did play in 30 games last year. Daniel Alexander is a 6-foot-9 forward, who spent time with Texas A&M. Akachi Okugo doesn't bring Division I experience, but he scored 12 points as a starter in the team's only preseason exhibition.
The hopes for a turnaround for LMU rest on the shoulders of potent scoring guard Anthony Ireland (20.2 ppg, 3.6 apg). Ireland earned All-WCC honors last year as one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. Ireland scored at least 20 points 16 times and had a pair of 30-point efforts. Ireland could still use some work as a passer, even though he led the team in assists. Moving the ball was a team-wide problem as the Lions were last in the WCC in assists (10.8 pg) which led to some poor shooting efforts as they also ranked last in field goal percentage (.402). Ayodeji Egbeyemi (10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is the only other player that scored in double figures a year ago that is back. Egbeyemi missed the final nine games of the season last year with an injury. Finding a third option to replace Ashley Hamilton (12.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg) will be a real challenge. C.J. Blackwell (6.6 ppg), who missed most of the year due to injury, is an intriguing option.
LMU is far from one of the dominant programs at the Division I level. However, Ireland is one of the more dominant players. That advantage will be key for the Lions, who are playing a Grand Canyon squad that lost (71-63) to UC San Diego in its preseason exhibition. Bouncing back and jumping right into the win column doesn't seem likely for the Antelopes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Loyola Marymount 75, Grand Canyon 60
11/08 10:45:57 ET