Another Double-Digit Deficit Disappears as LMU Advances to Quarterfinals

March 2, 2018

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LAS VEGAS -- Loyola Marymount trailed by as much as 15 points before winning their third straight game after trailing at intermission. The eighth-seeded Lions (11-19) turned up the second-half defense to move to 7-2 all-time against ninth-seeded Portland (10-22) in the West Coast Conference Tournament and defeat the Pilots, 78-72, on Friday.

"First off, full credit to Portland," said Head Coach Mike Dunlap. "They've beaten us twice so far [this season] and got up on us by 15. I think what happened for us was we are a young team who hasn't been in any playoff games ever. They showed great poise, and in the second half, defensively, we held them to 30 points. They were shooting over 71 percent at halftime so we knew over time they weren't going to be able to keep up that pace." 

The Lions came out scoring in the second half. LMU secured their first lead of the game, 49-47, following back-to-back threes by Erik Johansson and James Batemon. The run turned into an 13-0 run with LMU scoring 18 of the first 23 points after halftime. The Pilots were on a five-plus minute scoring drought during that stretch.

"I just wanted to come out aggressive," said Batemon. "I wasn't as aggressive in the first half, so I just wanted to come out aggressive and give my team a chance, and it worked out well for us."

LMU's lead grew to as large as nine, before the Pilots chipped it away to one-possession, 63-61, with 7:52 on the clock. The Lions again had an answer, scoring eight of the next nine points. 

Free throws down the stretch secured the game for the Lions. LMU hit 19 of 24 free throws in the second half to pull away the win, topping Portland for the first time this season. 

Early in the game, Portland went on a 12-0 run as part of a 16-2 spurt to extend their lead to 22-7, before Zafir Williams attacked the basket and scored on an inside layup high off the glass. Portland opened the game at 85 percent shooting (11-for-13).

The Lions responded with a 9-0 run of their own with a trio of layups by Williams, Cameron Allen, and Batemon sandwiched around a Jeffery McClendon triple. That stretch made it a 22-16 deficit with just under 10 minutes to play in the opening half. 

Mattias Markusson scored six quick points, including a transition dunk, as part of another LMU 8-0 run to cut it to a one-point game, 27-26. Markusson finished with 11 points on an efficient six shots.

Portland never surrendered the lead in the first half, even though LMU turned the 15-point deficit into one. The Lions went into the locker room trailing, 42-38, despite Portland's hot first-half shooting. The Pilots shot 71 percent (17-for-24) from the field and 86 percent (6-for-7) from three in the opening 20 minutes, but was 38.5 percent (10-for-26) in the second half.

Batemon finished with a game-high 29 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 11-for-12 from the free throw line, one off his career-high. 

"Offensively, James got loose on them, he ended up with 29," said Dunlap. "But you look at the balanced scoring we had a lot of guys in double figures, so that also improved things in the second half."

Eli Scott posted a 12 point, 10 rebound night for his sixth double-double to tie Markusson for the team-lead.

"We're just going to come out and play hard every game," said Scott. "It was a surreal feeling when we first started out today. We came out a little shocked, but once we got over that and ready, we got a lot better." 

Williams and Allen added 10 points apiece to make this LMU's first game with five double-digit scorers since Feb. 27, 2016.

The Lions have the tall task of turning around in less than 24 hours to play the top-seed and No. 7 in the nation Gonzaga. The two teams will play Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

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