Wichita State Silences the Lions


Well, I tried to be optimistic in the game preview. Sadly, my hopes of a major upset (or even a close game) did not come to fruition, as last night was a night to forget for the Loyola Marymount Lions. They were handed their fifth straight loss at the hands of the surging #11 Wichita State Shockers, losing by a final score of 80-53.

This one was over before it began. Wichita State outscored the Lions by a combined 22-6 at the beginning of each half. Their pressure defense absolutely stifled LMU, and they couldn’t seem to miss a shot from three point land. Things got ugly pretty quickly, and it’s going to be tough to relive or read about that game if you’re a Loyola Marymount fan, but let’s give it a shot:

After starting the game on 2-6 shooting, the Lions were able to pick up their game a bit and go 4-8 through part of the first half. By the four minute mark, Evan Payne was leading the way with eight points, going 6-6 from the free throw line. The Lions were playing with energy and you could tell they were giving it a good effort, which is admirable and relieving to see against a team as dominating as Wichita State.

But despite their energy and good hustle, the Shockers’ ferocious defense was far too much for the Lions to handle. Wichita State dictated the tempo of the game, forcing LMU into a ridiculous amount of turnovers. By the end of the game, the Lions had only five (yes, FIVE) assists against 16 turnovers. That’s not quite the ratio that most teams hope for.

Dec 22, 2014; Honolulu, HI, USA; Loyola Marymount guard Evan Payne (1) blocks a shot from Wichita State guard John Robert Simon (14) during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game at the Stan Sheriff Center. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

But when you look at Wichita’s relentless defense, it makes sense. Along with that hefty amount of turnovers, the Shockers also held a tremendous advantage on the glass. Wichita State had a 32-19 edge in rebounding, which led to a lot of second chance points for Gregg Marshall’s team. It was easy to start noticing a pattern for the Shockers: offensive rebound, kick the ball out to the arc, uncontested three point shot. You do the math. In case you haven’t watched Wichita State in the past three years, they don’t miss three pointers too often, especially when they’re wide open.

In the first half, the Shockers were 6-11 from the arc, with star point guard Fred VanVleet nailing a corner three pointer with about 1.5 seconds remaining before the halftime buzzer sounded.

The second half was almost identical to the first. Wichita State continued to dominate while LMU struggled to hold onto the ball, let alone score it. The Shockers went on a 14-0 run to just about seal up any remaining hopes LMU had about receiving the Comeback of the Year Award. The Lions committed turnovers on three straight possessions, each of which led to successful scoring opportunities for the Shockers.

What’s even more distressing, though, is that LMU committed more fouls than they made field goals. The Lions made 17 shots in this game – they had 21 fouls. More so, Evan Payne and Ayodeji Egbeyemi were the only players to score in double figures for the Lions.

Yes, it was a game that Loyola Marymount will be trying to wipe from their memory. There’s no question about that.

However, there is one highlight that just can’t be ignored. Evan Payne, who once again led the Lions in scoring, hammered down one of the nastiest, most poster-worthy dunks of the year. He split Wichita’s defenders and attacked the rim with so much force, it seemed like he was going to take the backboard down with him. It looked as if Vince Carter was suddenly playing in a Loyola Marymount jersey.

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That Sports Center Top 10 dunk was the undoubted highlight of the game. We see dunks like that in the NBA pretty often, but not too often in college basketball. It was truly a thing of pure beauty. Wichita State guard Ron Baker tried to stop Payne, but soon realized he would’ve just been on the bad end of a poster and backed off.

So sure, the Lions got beat down by one of the best teams in the country. It was a tough game to watch and a tougher one to recap. But hey, at least there was a beautiful addition to the highlight reel out of it.

The Lions had a better time against Nebraska on Tuesday pushing the Cornhuskers to overtime, but they still lost a tough one 50-42 despite strong defense. They held Nebraska to just 35 points in regulation, but they struggled in the extra period. LMU has one game left Christmas morning against DePaul before they return home to start WCC play on Monday versus Pepperdine.