As an LMU Lions fan, I don’t think I could have imagined a much better start for the Lions this season than the one that has taken place. Loyola Marymount is 6-3 and have already tied their best start since the 2006 season. To many teams, 6-3 is good, but not great. For a Lions team that had only EIGHT regular season wins all of last year, that 6-3 record is looking pretty sweet.
There’s not too much to say other than that LMU started off this season on the right foot. They came out and immediately started the season 4-0, with two of those wins coming by less than five points, including an incredible win against Long Beach State based solely around clutch play from the Senior Leader Anthony Ireland and a big mistake by the Niners. In these games, LMU showed us why this team was different than last year’s squad. That reason, while it sounds silly, is that Anthony Ireland is no longer the lone scoring option for the Lions, and that this LMU squad is able to stay tough for the whole 40 minutes and give every game their all in order to ensure a Lions victory.
Last season, LMU was simply unable to look to anyone but Ireland as someone who could consistently put up 15+ points every game. In fact, last season, only three Lions averaged over 10 points per game (Ashley Hamilton and Ayodeji Egbeyemi). This season, LMU has four players average more than 10 points per game, but each of them have higher point totals than last year’s top scorers, not to mention the fact that the other eight players contribute to the offense as well. LMU is overall more offensively efficient this year too, as they’re averaging about 13 more points per game than last season, but still sticking to the same fast-paced offensive system implemented by Max Good. Although out of all of those stats, the most improved one is field goal percentage numbers. This team is currently shooting 49%, a far cry from the atrocious 40% that last season’s team was shooting. It’s safe to say that now, LMU can score, and do so quite efficiently.
Another reason they’re so successful is the emergence of the young, new faces on the team. Of the Lions’ top four scorers, three of them are freshman or sophomores. Evan Payne, Gabe Levin, and Ben Dickinson (who is a transfer from Binghamton) have all proven their worth early on. Not only are each of them able to score, but they’re also good at various different parts of the game, making the Lions a very well-rounded team. Evan Payne is a guard whose stats this year parallel Anthony Ireland’s stats in his freshman season. Both of them are very quick, unafraid to drive to the lane (which I’m sure Evan Payne has the most and-ones this season, as he seems to get fouled and make it every time he attempts a lay-up), and skilled at taking the ball away from opponents. He’s got the potential to be as good as, if not better than Ireland, and he is certainly going to become the Lions’ go-to scorer in the coming years.
LMU’s big men also should not be left out of the discussion as to why the Lions have been successful this season. Gabe Levin almost averages a double-double in every game, and is such a quality player in that he’s able to score pretty well for a big man, keep the ball very secure, and be the Lions’ leading rebounder by a wide margin. He’s able to provide something for LMU that they needed-a big man who is able to crash the boards like it’s nobody’s business. Ben Dickinson is another LMU forward who has seen early-season success for the Lions as well. He’s a big man who is the the most offensively efficient starter on the team. He puts up good scoring numbers each outing, but he’s such a good and pure shooter that he makes 56% of all the shots he takes. When you put together all the pieces that these four players bring to the table for LMU, you see how well-rounded and great this basketball team is.
In the past five games though, LMU has run into some tough competition. They’ve met some power-conference foes, and have been unsuccessful against Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh. While they may not have been able to pull of some big upsets, they still showed that they have more resilience and determination than many past Lions teams. They only have three games left until conference play starts, and winning those three to go into WCC play at 9-3 would mean the world to the Lions and their fans. I have high hopes for this team, and I know that they won’t let
me us down. Go Lions.