Jan. 10, 2013
LOS ANGELES. -- Returning home to Gersten Pavilion for their conference home opener, LMU overcame hot early shooting by Santa Clara and erased a 14-point deficit to earn an 84-80 win on Thursday night. Junior Anthony Ireland paced the comeback with 29 points, one shy of a career-best.
Ireland hit 3-for-6 from three, 8-for-9 from the free throw line and added eight assists to guide the Lions to their third straight home win. The Lions improve to 8-8 overall and 1-2 in the WCC, while Santa Clara falls to 12-5 and 1-2.
Hamilton came off the bench to score 17 points with seven rebounds while Ayodeji Egbeyemi added 13 and held Bronco leading scorer Kevin Foster to 4-for-18 shooting, 3-for-15 from three. Foster finished with 11, while Evan Roquemore led them with 21 points, but fouled out in the final minute.
"This was a total team effort," said Head Coach Max Good. "We got down early, but didn't stop fighting or executing what we needed to do to be successful. Anthony hit some big shots and Ayodeji was really, really good against Foster. Everyone was very productive. Very solid win for us as a team."
A trio of three-pointers and a traditional three-point play gave the Broncos a 20-6 lead just six minutes into the contest. They would start the game 9-for-12 from three to build the early lead.
However, the Lions used the Broncos' 10th and 11th turnover to cut the lead to 35-29 after a three-pointer by Nick Stover and a lay-in by Ireland with 4:51 to play. The Broncos would lead 44-35 at the break.
LMU's defense would kick-start the comeback as they would force Santa Clara into 20 turnovers on 10 steals. LMU held a 23-13 edge on points off turnovers. The Lions finished with just 12. Egbeyemi had three steals while Godwin Okonji had four blocks to go with four points and nine rebounds.
"We did a much better job of staying with our assignments in the second half," said Good. "And that helped us get more aggressive offensively." After their fast start, Santa Clara went 4-for-18 from long range and finished shooting just 26-for-65 from the field (40 percent). The Lions finished hitting 45.8 percent.
Down nine, 48-39, the Lions went on a 8-0 run to cut the lead to one, 50-49, with 15:54 to play. It was back and forth from there.
LMU would finally tie the game at 53-53 with Ireland's floater in the paint with 12:50 on the clock. Egbeyemi would then give LMU its first lead, 54-53 on a free throw just under two minutes later.
The lead changed hands three times and Santa Clara look to regain control by taking a 58-54 lead on a pair of free throws by Brandon Clark, who finished with 14 points.
Hamilton and Egbeyemi led the Lions again as they erased the lead and a 7-0 run gave the Lions a 66-61 lead with 6:22 to play on a dunk by Hamilton.
Just as quick, Santa Clara answered to tie it at 66.
Hamilton continued to keep LMU the aggressor and his dunk with 4:48 to play gave the Lions a 68-66 lead, one they would not let go off.
It was Ireland who kept it that way.
Up 70-69, Ireland drained a three-pointer from the top of the key, only to have it answered by Foster on the next possession to make it, 73-72. Ireland did not flinch, delivering a step-back three-pointer with a defender in his face to make it 76-72. He would then hit a pair of free throws to make it 78-72 with 1:45 to play.
"Those back-to-back three-pointers by Ireland where huge," said Good. "We called plays for him to get those shots, and everyone executed for those to go in. And a very good player delivered."
Ireland would go six-for-six from the charity stripe from that point and the Lions would go 8-for-10 to keep Santa Clara at arms length to earn their third straight against the Broncos. They finished 21-for-25 (84 percent) from the line. Santa Clara was 15-for-20.
The Lions continue their home stand when they host Portland on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. The game will be on Lions' All-Access through LMULions.com and on KXLU 88.9 FM.
- GO LIONS -