LMU Classic Recap


Loyola Marymount and San Diego opened the season by taking part in the LMU Classic on Friday and Saturday that featured the Lions and Toreros as well as Boise State and Southeast Missouri State. The Broncos were the class of the tournament and the Mountain West contenders went 2-0 defeating both WCC teams. The Lions and Toreros both made up for it with wins over a weaker SE Missouri State team as they each start 1-1 on the year while the Redhawks leave Los Angeles at 0-2 and still looking for their first win.

In terms of talent on the four teams, things went exactly as one would predict. The Broncos came in the best team in the field and left as the best team. The Redhawks came in as the worst team in the field and left as the first. And the Lions and Toreros both left in the middle of the pack beating the weaker Redhawks but unable to pull of the upset over the Broncos.

As a result we weren’t able to learn all that much about the Lions or Toreros as they compare to each other despite playing the same two opponents. Both had respectable single-digit losses to the Broncos and hung with them the whole game. Both had low double-digit wins over the Redhawks and never dominated but were also never at a really serious risk of being upset. Based on results alone, they look like two very similar teams in terms of talent and ability after two games against common opponents.

So what can we take away? Both teams looked good, that’s one thing. They each had a chance to go 2-0 and get a big win over the Broncos, but they couldn’t pull it off. Both teams had some big performances from key players, and we got a good idea of how the supporting players will fill in behind them. Here are some takeaways for both the Lions and Toreros:


The Lions looked very strong considering nobody is expecting much from them under first-year coach Mike Dunlap. The biggest thing is that some of the upperclassmen are looking like breakout stars, which will be key to get help for centerpiece Evan Payne. The Lions are more complete and talented than people might, realize, and they could disrupt the WCC standings with some eye-opening performances


No matter what, the team will rely on 2013-14 All-Freshman Team selection Evan Payne. With Anthony Ireland gone and the team in transition, Payne becomes the centerpiece of the team, and through two game he is taking to the role quite well. Payne put up 23 points in the win against Southeast Missouri State, and then he proved it was no fluke by dropping 22 on a much tougher Boise State squad.

At this rate he is going to be one of the top scorers in the conference after finishing 7th in points per game last year. In a conference stacked with elite guards, he could end up quietly being among the best of them. And for a team lacking a lot of depth and talent, that’s exactly what the Lions need. If you’re going to rely on one player primarily, he better put up elite numbers. At through two games, Payne has done just that.


Payne getting off to a fast start is no surprise. What is however is how some players around him getting their first significant minutes as Lions also got off to great starts. Marin Mornar and Godwin Okonji appeared in almost every game last season, but they put up small numbers in limited minutes. This year they are getting much more playing time, and they have risen to the occasion with some big performances so far to prove they are the real deal.

Nov 15, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Loyola Marymount Lions forward Marin Mornar (42) attempts a shot defended by Boise State Broncos forward David Wacker (33) during the second half at Albert Gersten Pavilion. The Boise State Broncos defeated the Loyola Marymount Lions 77-69. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Mornar put up double-digit points in both games for the Lions, and he should be a quality contributor for a team in need of scorers. Okonji was quiet in the win over SE Missouri State, but he came alive against Boise State putting up a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. If those two can become consistent scorers and rebounders, that frontcourt presence will be huge for the Lions.

Also looking very strong in the frontcourt is David Humphries, a two time All-American for Northern Iowa Area Community College playing his first season for the Lions. He may be another diamond in the rough in the Lions frontcourt after putting up 9 points against the Broncos and 8 points, 8 rebounds against the Redhawks. The Lions have a very good frontcourt if Humphries is also a consistent contributor.

Ayodeji Egbeyemi and JUCO transfer Matt Hayes look like they will get most of the minutes in the backcourt with Payne, and both had strong games against the Redhawks. But they struggled against the Broncos, so they made need some time to develop. Fortunately with Payne back there, it’s not as pressing a need as it would be if they were key frontcourt players.


Every good team needs a guard who can lead the team and run the offense. Someone like a Chris Anderson or Kevin Pangos who can focus on assists and creating opportunities for their teammates. The Lions have the talent, but they don’t seem to have the facilitator to tie it all together. The assists numbers through the first couple games have been all over the place.

Right now Ayodeji and Payne are tied for the team lead with 6 assists apiece, not exactly a huge number. And neither is really set up to be the main assists guy long-term. This may be a full team effort, which in area like assists isn’t exactly ideal. Things could get ugly in games where they are behind and everyone is pushing to make some thing happen. In those cases either there will be some chaos or Payne will have to step up and sacrifice some of his scoring to tie everything together.

Neither of those situations is ideal, so finding the main glue guy quickly could be important. Chase Flint is the guy that probably needs to step up and fill the role. He started both games, and he is has the potential to be that good assists guy that takes a back seat and creates chances for his teammates. But he didn’t see a lot of minutes with two ugly games with little impact. Hopefully he can find his groove and slot into this role.



Around the USD campus, Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson are fondly referred to as the Twin Towers due to their elite ability and impact despite their small size. They will carry the Toreros this year, and they looked every bit the elite combo they need to be in the first two games. Dee put up 20+ points in both games and will once again be one of the best scorers in the conference. Anderson put a ridiculous 18 assists in the two games, and he has the look of one of the best assists men in the entire country.

Particularly encouraging was the scoring numbers put up by Anderson. We know he can get assists, but his point totals were often small as a result. With very little scoring talent outside of Dee, having Anderson put up more points is really key. Last year when he stepped up and put up bigger points totals, the Toreros were much better. To see him put up the assists number he did while also posting double-digit points totals is very encouraging.

The Toreros have the potential to be in every game because of these two, and how they play will dictate how well the Toreros perform. Through two games, it’s all systems go so far.


It’s early, but the lack of production behind Dee and Anderson was very disturbing. In the two games combined the Toreros had just five double-digit scoring performances, and four of them belonged to Anderson and Dee. Thomas Jacobs had the other, and he is looking like a quality role player as a source of points and rebounds. So far he has started both games in the one opening in the lineup vacated by Dennis Kramer, and he is shining after being a key reserve last season.

Nov 14, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Diego Toreros center Jito Kok (33) and forward Thomas Jacobs (back) battle for the rebound against the Boise State Broncos during the first half at Albert Gersten Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

But beyond that, it’s a wasteland in terms of other quality support. The Toreros are much deeper than last season and have a lot of talent, but it hasn’t shown up yet. Jito Kok had decent numbers, but it might be time to give up hope that he ever becomes anything more than a quality defender and below-average offensive player. Brandon Perry is clearly still shaking off the rust after a year off due to transferring, and that’s big considering they need the big man to put up some big numbers with Kramer gone and Kok being a limited contributor.

Brett Bailey got a lot of minutes, but he is quickly going the way of Kok as a highly regarded prospect who just never reaches his full potential. He just doesn’t seem to be able to contribute in any big ways whether it’s shooting, post play, or on defense. And speaking of unfulfilled potential, where is Duda Sanadze? The third anchor of the lineup last year as an excellent contributor alongside Dee and Anderson, he has been a ghost in the first two games.

Sanadze had just 7 points on 3-7 shooting against Boise State, and he had a shockingly awful game by his standards against Southeast Missouri State getting in foul trouble and finishing with no points. Of all the slow starts by the Toreros, this is the most disturbing. Sanadze is an elite combo guard-forward who will be relied on for support behind Dee and Anderson. Getting him going will be very important, so hopefully these first two games are just a slow start.


Much will be asked of the four incoming freshmen with most of the returning players off to slow starts, and from the looks of the first two games they will get lots of chances to prove themselves. Guards Vasa Pusica, Marcus Harris, and Khalil Bedart-Ghani all got a lot of the minutes in the two games, and there were rotations where they were the primary core on the floor in what was clearly an early season trial by fire. Bill Grier obviously wants them up and running very fast, and they look like they will play a key role this season.

Pusica had a decent game against Boise State, while Harris did the same against Southeast Missouri State. Both come in with a lot of talent and showed big flashes potential. Bedart-Ghani and Cameron Neubauer are more combo/forward types, so they didn’t get the same opportunities with Jacobs doing well and Bailey looking like he will get a lot of minutes. But overall, the freshmen survived and showed they can carry the load they will be expected to carry.


All things considered, both teams had a good debut weekend. They got the win they couldn’t afford not to get, and they both can take good things away from their losses to Boise State. No shame losing to a team with Mountain West Championship and NCAA Tournament aspirations this season. Even being able to hang with the Broncos was a great accomplishment for both squads.

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Being that it’s still early, both teams have things to figure out. But both have potential solutions in place that could emerge, and the important thing is that their key players all look excellent in the early going. These should be two quality teams who can make some noise this season. And they could be even better if they figure out their early issues.