SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In a game that featured the most lead changes of the season, it was Loyola Marymount that was able to fend off Santa Clara late to earn their first conference road win of the season. The Lions (9-19, 4-13 WCC) shot over 60 percent from the field in the second half to knock off the Broncos (11-18, 8-9), 65-64, and earn the season split.
“It’s good for our confidence going into the WCC Tournament,” said Head Coach Mike Dunlap. “Anything that we can grab onto for that one-game season type tournament is important.”
Mattias Markusson scored on his first two touches of the night to give LMU the early 4-2 lead. Those were his only two points before halftime, but his 7-for-7 second half shooting led to a new career-high 19 points. His sixth double-double and third in his last four games came after he added 12 rebounds to his night.
“Mattias has grown into been a really nice player for us, and there is a lot of nice individual work that goes into it behind the scenes,” said Dunlap.
After some brief lead changes, the first of a season-high 16, Cameron Allen knocked down a three that gave the lead back to the Lions, 16-15. The Broncos responded with a 7-0 run to build their largest lead of the gme with 7:49 on the clock in the first half.
LMU worked back into it, with Allen again hitting a top-of-the-arc three to give the lead back to the Lions, 24-22, with 3:43 to play until halftime.
Zafir Williams finished with the last four points of the half for LMU. He put the Lions ahead, 26-25, with a tip-in second-chance bucket then tied the score at 28-all with a layup in the final minute before Santa Clara free throws gave the Broncos the halftime advantage, 30-28. The Lions were 0-and-11 in West Coast Conference games when trailing at the half, entering Saturday.
LMU scored the first five points of the second half to retake the lead. James Batemon opened the scoring with a triple and Markusson added another one at the basket.
No team pushed it out of a one possession game until Batemon added his second three with 4:42 remaining to extend the LMU lead to 55-51. He was perfect from long range, 2-for-2, and LMU finished at 44.4 percent as a team (4-for-9) from distance.
The lead grew to as large as six on two separate occasions in the second half, both on Eli Scott baskets with 3:16 and then 2:00 remaining. The freshman had a dozen points, six rebounds, and a game-high five assists.
With Santa Clara cutting their deficit to three, Allen used the entire shot clock and weaved his way to the cup, scoring with 1:05 remaining to make it a 61-56 lead. Allen and Williams each finished with eight points.
Batemon knocked down four straight free throws late to fend off Santa Clara’s late comeback bid. The LMU defense stopped KJ Feagin’s final shot attempt at the buzzer to earn their first road victory of the West Coast Conference season. Feagin finished with a game-high 29 points to lead the Broncos.
Our whole battle cry has been defense,” said Dunlap. “To come in on the road and hold them to 40 percent, that’s a big effort for us. On the offensive side, we are turning the ball over less. That leads to some confidence for us heading into Saturday at 1.”
The Lions will play one final home game before heading to this season’s WCC Tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. LMU will host Pacific in the WCC Game of the Week Saturday at 1 p.m. Steven Haney, Jr. will be recognized prior to the game for his accomplishments as a Lion over his three seasons.
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