March 9, 2013
Box Score |
Lions' All-Access Postgame Press Conference | LMU on Facebook | LMU on Twitter
LAS VEGAS - Playing their fourth game in four days against the nation's top team, LMU's impressive run through the 2013 West Coast Conference Men's Basketball Championship finally came to a close with a 66-48 setback to No. 1 Gonzaga in the first semifinal match-up on Saturday at the Orleans Arena.
The ninth-seeded Lions battled their way into the WCC semifinals for the second time in four years by topping eighth-seed Portland, No. 5 San Francisco and No. 4 Santa Clara, all to earn a date with the No. 1 ranked Zags. And for 20 minutes, the improbable run continued.
However, Gonzaga, which went unbeaten in conference play by winning each game by an average of 20 points, went on a 14-0 run in the second half to put the Lions in a double-digit hole they couldn't work out of. The Zags reach 30 wins for the first time in program history as they move on to the WCC title game. The Lions, who posted their longest winning streak of the season at the tournament, finish at 11-23.
"They are a very, very good team. I greatly respect their program," said Head Coach Max Good. "I am a man of many words, but I am really not sure how to express how proud I am of this team and their effort, not just in the tournament, but every day all season. We had some tough setbacks at the buzzer but this team came to practice every day ready to get better. And once again we left it all out there tonight."
Anthony Ireland led the Lions with 19 points, giving him 688 on the season to finish seventh all-time for a single season. His career total is now at 1,576, 10th all-time at LMU. He was the only Lion in double figures as scoring was at a premium in the second half. The Lions managed just 22 second-half points.
Gonzaga's Elias Harris led all scorers with 21 points and Kevin Pangos added 14 points. The Lions held leading scorer Kelly Olynyk to eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, nine below his average. And like they had all tournament, it was their defense that had them in position to continue the run.
"We did a great job on Olynyk and I thought we did a great job overall in the first half defensively," said Good. "However, we got into a little foul trouble and they do such a great job of working their strengths. They got some key shots to start that second half that hurt us."
LMU held Gonzaga to its second lowest first-half point total (27) and fourth lowest field goal percentage of the year (37.5%). Led by Ireland and Nick Stover with eight points apiece in the half, the Lions hit at a 40 percent clip and used a 12-2 run to take a five-point lead, 14-9, with 9:11 to play.
The game would go back and forth throughout the first half with eight lead changes and four ties. The Zags got a key bucket to end the first half to lead by just one, 27-26, at the break.
The second half looked to be more of the same. Gonzaga pushed the lead to three to start the half, before Ireland hit a three to tie the game for the fifth and final time at 29-29. Pangos answered with a three of his own, just to have Ireland answer with mid-range jumper to trim the Zags' lead to 32-31.
That's when the Zags would pull away. They would post a 14-0 run over a span of five minutes to take a 46-31 lead on a Pangos three pointer with 13:50 to play. Bruce English stopped the run with a lay-in with 12:33 to play.
The Zags stretched the lead to 17, 50-33, but LMU's defense wasn't done as they held Gonzaga without a point for over three minutes and without a field goal for nearly four. In the process the Lions cut the lead to 12, 50-38, on a jumper by Alex Osborne with 7:15 to play.
LMU had a chance to cut further in the lead but went without a bucket for over three minutes themselves as Gonzaga solidified the win.
Gonzaga finished hitting 67.7 percent in the second half to score 39 points and 43.5 percent for the game. They hit 35.7 percent from three (5-14) after starting the first half at 1-for-7. LMU hit just 24.1 percent in the second half and finished hitting 30.6 percent for the game. The Zags went 21-for-31 from the free-throw line while LMU went 13-for-19.