March 8, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- The run in the 2013 West Coast Conference Championships for LMU men's basketball continues, as the Lions claimed their third straight win in as many nights, defeating No. 4 seed Santa Clara, 60-58, on Friday night at Orleans Arena.
Junior Anthony Ireland's driving lay-up with six seconds remaining gave the Lions a 59-58 lead. Brandon Clark, an 80-percent free throw shooter, was fouled on the next possession for Santa Clara, but missed the front end of the one-on-one. Senior walk-on Taylor Walker grabbed the rebound and Ireland was fouled with two seconds left.
Ireland missed the first but hit the second and Kevin Foster's half-court shot was long.
"I have been in this business a long time and I really am not sure what to say," said Head Coach Max Good. "I am so proud of these guys and how hard they have worked, not just in this tournament, but all season, no matter the circumstance. We are not a pretty team, but we are very gritty and I am so proud to be a part of this team."
The Lions improbable three-game winning streak - its longest of the season - in the WCC tournament comes on the heals of their 14-game skid at the end of the regular season. The Lions (11-22), who entered the tournament as the No. 9 seed and lost six conference games by four points or less and three at the buzzer, avenge a 15-point setback to the Broncos (21-11) just eight days earlier.
Prior to the WCC tournament changing its format in 2003, three straight wins would earn a team a trip to the NCAA Tournament. For the Lions, their reward is a date with top-ranked Gonzaga in the semifinals on Saturday at 6 p.m. It will be the Lions first match-up against a No. 1 since the Lions traveled to Las Vegas to face preseason No. 1 UNLV on Nov. 15, 1989.
"This team really believes, and I have never been with a group as tight as they are," said Good. "As soon as we walk out of here, our attention is on a golden opportunity. I think any player in the country would love the chance to play a top-ranked team in a conference tournament."
The Lions were led by Ireland with 23 points, three rebounds, three assists and seven steals, the most since Damian Martin set the program record of nine on Dec. 19, 2006. Ashley Hamilton added 13 points and nine rebounds while freshman Nick Stover came off the bench to score 11, his high since the season opener.
Foster led the Broncos with 23 points and five rebounds. Marc Trasolini, who had 26 points eight days ago, was held to 10 points and no other Bronco reached double figures.
LMU held Santa Clara, who hit 51 percent last week, to 39.6 percent shooting from the field. The Lions hit 41.4 percent. LMU out-rebounded the Broncos 37-31 as Alex Osborne tied a career-high with 11.
"We continue to get solid play from everyone that enters the game," said Good. "Walker's rebound at the end was key. I really got on Ashley at one point in the game and he responded big. And Anthony, what can you say about Anthony."
The Lions closed the first half on a 16-6 run to erase a 10-point deficit as the game was tied at 34-34 at the break.
Santa Clara would go up six on a 7-0 run in the second half on a jumper by Foster with 11:15 to play. The lead would never go larger than six and trailing 53-48, the Lions went on a 9-0 run, capped by a pair of Ireland free throws with 2:39 to play, to take a 57-53 lead.
The Broncos and Foster would not go away as he scored five straight points, including a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left to take a one-point lead to set-up the final seconds and Ireland's winner.