The Loyola Marymount Lions were hoping to walk out of Jenny Craig Pavilion with smiles on their faces, high fives going all around, and their first conference victory notched tightly under their belt.
That’s not what happened – San Diego defeated LMU by a final score of 59-50. The Lions are now 0-4 in the West Coast Conference, landing them directly at the bottom of the standings. However, this game should’ve sparked some hope for Lions fans everywhere.
“But why would another conference loss make us feel hopeful about Loyola Marymount?”
For the first time this season (whether it be conference or non-conference play), we saw a whole-hearted team effort from LMU. The Lions were playing and functioning as a unit, working together to play some strong defense and keep up with the Toreros throughout a majority of the game.
What’s even more notable, though, is that Evan Payne, who’s consistently the Lions’ most outstanding contributor, was not the star player for Loyola Marymount. That spot was filled by Marin Mornar, the junior forward from Croatia.
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
After the first half, Mornar finished with four points, four rebounds, an assist, a steal, and four monster blocks. His contributions kept the Lions in close reach of USD, but an impressive last-second floater by San Diego star Johnny Dee kept the Toreros up by three at the half. An impressive defensive showing by both teams left the Lions shooting only 38% in field goal percentage by halftime, with San Diego shooting 33%.
LMU continued that strong defense to start the second half, as USD turned the ball over in each of their first three possessions, leading to easy points in transition for the Lions.
Payne also began to regain his dominance in the second half, while Mornar continued his impressive outing, nailing a number of three pointers and jump shots.
There were numerous lead changes throughout the matchup, as both the Lions and Toreros were showing incredible hustle and effort on the glass and on defense. In fact, by the 14:10 mark, both teams combined for a remarkable total of 14 blocks and 13 steals.
But it was Jito Kok’s relentless defense that sealed the victory for San Diego. Shortly into the second half, he had eight blocks, which just so happens to set a new record in the Toreros’ history. It was Kok’s defensive effort, combined with guard Chris Anderson’s impressive shooting, that led to an eventual 11-0 run for USD late in the second half, locking up the W for Bill Grier’s team.
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Dee once again led the Toreros in scoring, notching 18 points, while Anderson contributed 14.
It was a great outing from both teams, but especially from Loyola Marymount. Seeing someone other than Evan Payne take the reigns for the Lions made for a nice change. The amount of improvement on defense, ball movement, and overall hustle that LMU displayed was incredible and should give Lions fans some reason to celebrate in the midst of a loss.