The Pacific Tigers are off to quite an ideal start to the new year as they pick up their first conference win of the season by defeating Loyola Marymount 77-63 in Los Angeles.
We were anticipating a fast-paced, high-level guard duel between LMU’s Evan Payne and Pacific’s T.J. Wallace, two of the best guards the WCC has to offer. That wasn’t exactly what we got, though, as Wallace only managed to knock down six points in 30 minutes of play. Payne, on the other hand, did not disappoint – he scored an outstanding 27 points for the Lions, once again leading his team in virtually every way possible.
But yet again, it was the remainder of LMU’s lineup that failed to provide Payne with the support necessary to come away with a victory. Forwards Godwin Okonji and Patson Siame were the only other players to score in double digits, notching ten points each. But Simon Krajcovic, Petr Herman, David Humphries, and Matt Hayes all failed to score a single point (in a decent amount of playing time, nonetheless).
Where have we seen this before?
On the other end of the floor, the Tigers did not get the jaw-dropping performance from Wallace that many of us were expecting. But no T.J.? No problem. That was the mindset of sophomore forward David Taylor, at least, who led Pacific in scoring with 20 points. I was shocked to find out Taylor was a forward, because his ball-handling skills made him look like a commanding floor general. He shot 7-11 from the floor and went 5-8 (!!!) from three point land.
The Tigers shot a remarkable 67 percent in the second half.
What really did Loyola Marymount in, though, was turnovers. They committed 16 turnovers in total, with 12 of those coming in the first half. It doesn’t matter who you are or what team you’re on – that’s unacceptable. And it wasn’t even necessarily due to great defense from Pacific. Many of them just came from careless mistakes that could’ve easily been avoided.
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
On top of that, the Lions were having a hard time staying out of foul trouble. In the second half, it seemed as if every time the Tigers would drive to the basket, there’d be a whistle blown and they’d end up at the free throw line. That, combined with some dreadful perimeter defense, was the final nail in the coffin for LMU.
Now, I’ve done my fair share of wailing on the Lions these past few weeks and venting my frustrations. But I, and I’m sure many others, need to remember that this is a Loyola Marymount team that’s rebuilding. They just lost their superstar point guard in Anthony Ireland and are under the direction of a new head coach in Mike Dunlap.
They’re in transition, but the Lions have the pieces to be successful in the next couple years. Dunlap was an incredible pickup for LMU – he’s the perfect coach to lead this team going forward. Not only that, he has a skillful centerpiece to construct his future teams around in Evan Payne. I truly believe that Evan will make a strong case for WCC Player of the Year by his senior campaign.
So yes, it can be frustrating watching LMU this season. Especially because of the potential we all know they have. But they’re a team that’s still learning to play and function together as a unit. Success takes time and practice, and the Lions are headed down the right path. This year might be tough, but Loyola Marymount has the pieces for a bright future, and it’s going to be exciting to see this team when they’ve tapped their full potential.