Feb. 25, 2012
LOS ANGELES - Santa Clara challenged the best free throw shooting team in the West Coast Conference to earn a win at the foul line, and LMU responded with an 88 percent clip, hitting 31-for-35 (88 percent) to claim a 68-65 victory in the West Coast Conference finale at Gersten Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Lions finish 11-5 in conference play, tied for the third most WCC wins in school history. In addition, they improve to 19-11 on the season, the best record since the Elite Eight season of 1989-90. Santa Clara becomes the first team since 2001 to finish without a conference win, finishing with a WCC record of 0-16 and 8-21 overall.
LMU will be the fourth seed in the upcoming Zappos.com WCC Championships, which begin Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The Lions earn a bye to the quarterfinals and will play in the first game on Friday, March 2 at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast live on KXLU 88.9 FM.
"This was a typical late conference, grind-it-out, type of battle," said Head Coach Max Good. "We knew Santa Clara was going to give us everything and I thought defensively we did enough to win, and we got back to hitting our free throws."
Sophomore Anthony Ireland did a little of everything for the Lions, scoring 17 points, with six assists, four rebounds and five steals. Senior Drew Viney added 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds on senior night. Jarred DuBois chipped in 13.
Raymond Cowels III had a game-high 22 points, while Denzel Johnson and Evan Roquemore added 12 and 11, respectively.
"We forced them into tough shots for most of the night, and in the second half we rebounded the ball a tad better," said Good.
The Lions held Santa Clara to 34.9 percent from the field. The Broncos did finish 8-for-20 from the three-point line (40 percent). LMU struggled from the field, hitting 33.3 percent, including a 3-for-12 clip from long range. The teams were even in rebounding at 42 each.
After seven ties and five lead changes in the first half, the Lions would never trail in the second half, building a nine-point lead, 48-39, after an Ireland lay-up with 11:27 to play.
It would be pretty much a free throw shooting show the rest of the way as the Lions would score just one field goal the rest of the way, but would hit 20 of their 24 second half free throws in the final 11 minutes.
The only field goal came from DuBois, who would make it a three-point play with a free throw to give the Lions the largest lead of the game, 58-47, with 6:02 to play.
But Santa Clara wouldn't go away. A 9-1 run by the Broncos, capped by a pair of Niyi Harrison free throws, cut the lead to 61-59 with 2:16 to play.
LMU would keep the Broncos out of reach from there, hitting 7-for-8 free throws down the stretch.
- GO LIONS -