Lions Look for First Conference Win Against Portland


After a five-day break from conference play, the Loyola Marymount Lions are back to try to pick up their first WCC win against the Portland Pilots on Thursday, January 15 at 10:00 pm ET.

The Lions have had their fair share of struggles since West Coast Conference action started, going 0-5, making them the only WCC team without a conference win. And facing a team like Portland, who has a number of offensive weapons and a notable size advantage, isn’t exactly going to do them any favors.

Though the Pilots have already picked up three conference losses, they should not be discredited.

Nov 18, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Portland Pilots guard Alec Wintering (2) drives the baseline against Michigan State Spartans guard Keith Appling (11) during the 1st half of a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

They have an outstanding sophomore guard in Alec Wintering, who is leading the team in scoring with 14.0 PPG and in assists with 5.4 APG. The team-leader, though, is Thomas van der Mars, the senior center out of the Netherlands who is averaging 7.9 rebounds and 10.9 points per game.

Though his team lost, Van der Mars nearly had a double-double against Gonzaga, notching 17 points to go along with eight rebounds. He was a big reason why the Pilots were able to keep up with the Bulldogs for the first half of the game.

Guards Kevin Bailey and Bryce Pressley form the starting backcourt along with Wintering, while Volodymyr Gerun, the senior forward out of the Ukraine, joins van der Mars in the post.

Loyola Marymount, on the other hand, is in rebuilding mode for the season, still trying to get comfortable under new head coach Mike Dunlap’s system.

The undeniable leader for this Lions team is Evan Payne, the sophomore guard who has controlled the reigns throughout LMU’s entire season. Payne sat out of LMU’s last game against BYU because of a violation of team rules, but should be back for Thursday’s matchup. He is averaging 20.0 PPG, leading the team in scoring by a considerable margin (the next highest scorer is Ayodeji Egbeyemi, averaging 8.9 PPG).

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Despite the loss to BYU, there were some signs of hope for the Lions. Payne’s absence gave his fellow teammates a chance to shine, and forward Marin Mornar took advantage of that opportunity. Mornar nearly had a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds. What’s even better, though, is that four other Lions scored in double digits – Godwin Okonji nailed 14, David Humphries scored 12, and Egbeyemi and Matt Hayes got 11 each.

This is a wonderful sign for LMU. The team’s most prevalent problem this season has been their failure of supporting and matching Payne’s scoring efforts. Usually, one or two players would score in double figures for Loyola Marymount, but five?! That’s an amazing improvement for the Lions and a great display of unselfish basketball.

For all we know, Payne’s removal from that game’s lineup could be a blessing in disguise. If the Lions can have performances like that when Payne is still playing, then this team could pick up their first conference win very soon. It’ll be a tough test against Portland, but should make for a very fun matchup.