Last season, the LMU Lions shocked everyone in the 2013 WCC tournament when Anthony Ireland and company advanced to the semifinals of the tournament and narrowly knocked off then No. 1 Gonzaga. Well, it appears the Lions are recapturing some of that magic in the 2014 tournament.
#10 Loyola Marymount Lions defeated #7 Portland Pilots by a score of 67-64 to advance further in the WCC tournament. Portland got out to an early lead, but LMU went on a 21-10 run to end the half. By halftime, Max Good’s squad held a one point lead.
Much like the first half, the start of the second was all Portland as well when the Pilots fired off an 18-4 run to establish a 13-point lead. The Lions were then able to mount their second double-digit comeback of the game, as LMU then went on a 13-1 run to cut the Pilots lead to one.
It was a back-and-forth affair at that point, but LMU ended up making more baskets down the stretch in the most opportune moments. With a little under two minutes to go and the Lions down by two, Anthony Ireland made two free throws to tie the game at 60. Portland’s Thomas van der Mars followed that off with a quick dunk on the other end of the floor and Evan Payne matched that with a mid-range jumper to retie the game a 62. After Portland guard David Carr could not connect on the three-point attempt, and LMU ran out in transition and Ireland found Nick Stover for the reverse layup to give the Lions the 64-62 lead. Portland guard Bobby Sharp errantly turned the ball over with 15 seconds to play, and Stover was sent to the line to shoot two for the Lions. He drilled both, and just like that, the Lions had a four point lead on higher seeded Portland with 13 seconds remaining.
Van der Mars was able to tip-in a missed layup from David Carr to cut the lead to two with about five seconds left. Ireland was then fouled, and the senior guard proceeded to only make one free throw, increasing the Lions lead back to three. Portland senior forward Ryan Nicholas found the ball about two or three feet over the midcourt line, and chucked up a desperation shot at the buzzer. His heave was no good, and the Lions prevailed.
LMU was led by freshman guard Payne, whose 19 points were a team-high in his first ever postseason action as a Lion. Stover, who also scored 14 points, and Gabe Levin pulled down seven rebounds each to lead the Lions in that category. Ireland led the Lions in assists with six, and chipped in 14 points as well in the win.
Portland’s senior lead Nicholas stuffed the stat sheet in the losing effort. He had 13 points and 11 rebounds in his last game as a Pilot. Thomas van der Mars also recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He and Bobby Sharp’s 18 points apiece were team-highs for the Pilots. David Carr got the start in place of the injured Alec Wintering, and dished out 4 assists taking over the point guard duties.
Keys to the Game Checklist
(X) Bryce Pressley: The sophomore guard did not bring it like many expected today, as the sophomore guard only scored two points, grabbed three rebounds and dished out two assists in a game that he fouled out of.
(X) Defense of Levin and Osborne: Although the Lions got the victory, it was not because of the defense from its big men. Van der Mars and Nicholas combined for 31 points, and Levin and Osborne picked up nine fouls throughout the game.
Matchup of the Game Revisited
Gabe Levin vs. Ryan Nicholas (Adv. Nicholas): Despite the loss, Nicholas had the better game, going five of nine from the field, scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Player of the Game
The bright lights of Vegas did not seem to faze the LMU freshman at all. Payne led the Lions with 19 points and also contributed four rebounds and two steals.
LMU will face BYU on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. with an opportunity to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
The Portland Pilots season is likely over, considering the Pilots do not possess a resume that would warrant a postseason tournament berth.