Game #9-374: Loyola Marymount Lions at Portland PilotsFebruary 7, 2013 10:00 pm
I have to admit, at this point in the season it's not as easy to get excited for a Pilot game. I'm more nervous than anything. If they're playing someone good like Gonzaga or Saint Mary's I worry about how badly they're going to get blown out. If it's a team at the bottom of the standings, like Loyola Marymount, I worry about the Pilots not being good enough to even beat a team at the bottom of the WCC standings.
If you're a certain age you'll remember when LMU was one of the top mid-majors in Hoops Nation. From 1988-1990, under the coaching of Paul Westhead they went to three straight NCAA tournaments. Of course the last of those tournament teams is the one everyone remembers, both for the tragic loss of Hank Gathers and the way his friend Bo Kimble and the rest of the team rallied to make an Elite 8 run. The Portland alumni I talk to can recall clearly how fast the Lions played and how many points they could put up. I'm sure LMU fans who were around for that era remember it well too.
As Thursday's game at Portland showed, however, that the 100-points-per-game era is most certainly a thing of the past at LMU. They only average 67.8 points per game, sixth out of nine teams in the WCC (as I expected Portland was last in that category). The Lions' best win is over RPI #99
Santa Clara; their other six wins are over teams ranked below #200. On the plus side they have a scorer. Anthony Ireland is 16th in the nation in scoring at 19.5 ppg and he's just a junior. To be fair Max Good has had to deal with injuries and inexperience this season and things look better for them next season.
The first half didn't put my concerns about the Pilots to rest. An overabundance of mistakes turned an early six-point lead into a seven-point deficit by the 5:30 mark of the first half. Once again there were all kinds of mistakes on display. The ones that stood out to me the most were the bad decisions the Pilots were making on fast breaks, turning what should have been easy layups into missed shots. They fought back to within three at halftime and only trailed 31-28. Ryan Nicholas and Tanner Riley, back from a two-game suspension for his momentary lapse of reason against BYU, both were having good shooting nights. Still, Portland was down three and I didn't know if they could pull this off.
When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. My negative impressions based on the first half were proven incorrect by the good second half the Pilots put together. In the second half LMU got out to a seven-point lead but Ryan Nicholas and Tanner Riley continued their hot superhoop shooting. Thomas van der Mars had a very good game in the post with 14 points and 7 rebounds, and his effectiveness allowed the outside shooters to get open. Riley made four of his five superhoop attempts on the way to 14 points and an excellent comeback after his absence. Nicholas finished a perfect 5-5 from long distance and had 21 points for the night. His last field goal was also the biggest of the night. With a little over a minute to go and up by two, he calmly drained a three to push the lead back to five. Even better, the Pilots made their free throws from there on in to keep the lead and win 69-60.
The game wasn't the prettiest. Portland still turned it over 15 times in 56 possessions. They also allowed LMU a lot of offensive rebounds and it can be argued they got lucky with their shooting. It still feels a lot better to talk about what to improve after a win though. Now Portland can go for a winning streak Saturday against Pepperdine. My first impression is that I'm feeling a lot better about that game than I was yesterday.
at PORTLAND 69, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 60
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 8-14 (1-9) -- A. Egbeyemi 4-10 1-3 10; A. Ireland 6-13 6-7 21; G. Okonji 4-7 2-2 10; A. Hamilton 3-7 1-1 7; T. Walker 3-5 1-2 7; A. Osborne 1-3 0-0 2; M. Mornar 1-2 0-0 3; B. English 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 22-47 11-17 60.
PORTLAND 9-16 (2-8) -- D. Rodgers 1-2 4-4 6; R. Nicholas 6-8 4-4 21; T. van der Mars 6-8 2-3 14; T. Riley 6-10 1-1 17; K. Thieleke 1-3 1-3 3; B. Pressley 1-3 0-0 2; K. Bailey 1-3 0-0 3; O. Reinfelds 1-3 0-2 3; R. Barker 0-0 0-0 0; J. Ehlers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-41 12-17 69.
Three-point goals: LMU 5-9 (A. Ireland 3-4; A. Egbeyemi 1-4; M. Mornar 1-1), PORT 11-16 (T. Riley 4-5; D. Rodgers 0-1; R. Nicholas 5-5; K. Bailey 1-2; J. Ehlers 0-1; B. Pressley 0-1; O. Reinfelds 1-1); Rebounds: LMU 22 (A. Osborne 6), PORT 24 (T. van der Mars 7); Assists: LMU 10 (A. Ireland 4), PORT 19 (D. Rodgers 11); Total Fouls -- LMU 20, PORT 19; Fouled Out: LMU-None; PORT-None.