Dec. 21, 2002
Los Angeles, CA (Dec. 21) - Playing its fourth game in eight days, the Loyola Marymount University men's basketball team shot just 31 percent in a sluggish first half and could not recover as they fell to the University of Montana 75-68 at Gersten Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Lions drop their first game of the year at home as Montana built a 13-point lead at half time and never trailed. LMU falls to 5-6 while Montana improves to 5-7. The Grizzlies avenge an early loss to LMU in the Great Alaska Shootout, 65-62, on Nov. 29.
"I will take full responsibility for tonight's game," said Head Coach Steve Aggers. "We were a very tired team tonight, and that was my fault. We were in the situation where we wanted to get a young team as much experience as possible. However, playing four games in eight days was too much. We were emotionally and physically drained and it led to the lack of execution."
Lion sophomore Charles Brown led all scorers with a career-high 23 points, 21 coming in the second half. LMU sophomore Sherman Gay finished with 11. The Grizzlies had four players in double figures, including David Bell with 16 and Kevin Criswell with 13. Marcus Rosser and Steve Horne each added 10.
"You have to give credit to Montana," said Aggers. "They have really improved since we beat them in Alaska. They came out and controlled the tempo from the beginning."
LMU struggled to get anything started and fell down by 16 points at the start of the second half when Ryan Peterson hit a three-pointer to make the score 37-21. The Lions, who erased leads of 13 and 11 in the previous two games, mounted another rally to climb back into the game.
Brown would cut the Montana lead to eight on a lay-in with 13:03 remaining and was fouled. His free throw made it 46-39. Freshman Wes Wardrop hit two free throws with 9:38 remaining to trim the lead to 50-45 with 9:37 left.
After a full-court press, the Lions earned a steal by Brown and Gay hit one of two free throws to make the margin 50-46 at the 9:32 mark. Gay would drive to the basket on the next possession and make a lay-in to cut the lead to 50-48 with 8:58 remaining.
Montana would put the game out of reach with the 13-3 run over the next five minutes, capped by a three-point play by Criswell with 4:30 remaining to put the game away.
"I was pleased with the way we came back," said Aggers. "Montana executed at the end and like any good team took our best shot and did not crumble."
Montana outrebounded the Lions 26-11 in the first half and finished the game with a 39-32 edge on the boards. LMU finished the game shooting just 40 percent (25-for-62), while Montana was 51 percent (25-for-49) from the field.
"I have seen this team battle all season. We pushed Cal Poly at the buzzer, Northridge to the final seconds, defeated very talented Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, and went down to the wire with Villanova and Wyoming. We have a good basketball team. Every season has peaks and valleys, and we are in a valley right now. These are good kids and we will become better."
LMU will have an eight-day rest before traveling to the Montana State tournament on Dec. 29-30. They will open with Siena at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
- GO LIONS -