League Leaders Visit Gersten For Homecoming
Men's basketball to host Gonzaga on Saturday at 1 pm.
Jan. 17, 2014
Nick Stover interviews CJ Blackwell.">
LOS ANGELES -- LMU men's basketball will conclude its quick two-game homestand when they host the West Coast Conference leaders, Gonzaga, in the WCC Game of the Week on Saturday, Jan. 18. The game is the 2014 Homecoming Game and will start with a pregame tailgate party presented by the LMU Alumni Association and Student Leadership and Development at 11 am. The game will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Comcast SportsNet, ROOT Sports and TheW.tv with tip-off set for 1 pm.
The Lions return home next week for the first time in conference play with school in session. It's Welcome Back Week on campus with special events through-out the week and it concludes with LMU's Homecoming showdown with Gonzaga in the WCC Game of the Week. The LMU Alumni Association and Student Leadership and Development have combined forces to offer a special tailgate party starting at 11 am with the game starting at 1 pm. The Zags improved to 15-3 on the season and 5-1 in the WCC after a 70-53 win over Pepperdine on Thursday. Entering the fourth weekend of WCC play, home teams had won better than 65 percent of the conference games. Not so Thursday, as all four road teams won. LMU's setback was its first in six games at home. This will be just the fourth true road game for the Zags this season.
INSIDE THE LIONS
Senior Anthony Ireland continues to pace the Lions in all areas of the floor, putting the final marks on his record-setting career. Thursday's game against Portland was his 119th as a Lion, not missing a game in his career. He equals Terrell Lowery's all-time mark against the Pilots, and will become the all-time leader on Saturday. This all coming in a season where he set a career-high with 34 points against Santa Clara and then set the LMU record for career starts with his 110th against San Diego on Jan. 9, just the fourth player to start more than 100 in his career. It was his third career game with 30 or more points and his 38th 20-point game. With 355 points (ranked 17th in the NCAA as of Jan. 12), 102 assists (ranked 20th) and 32 steals (ranked 75th) in 2013-14, Ireland surpasses Jeff Fryer for sixth all-time in LMU history with 1,932 points. He also moved to fourth with 486 career assists and with two steals on Thursday, he moved to fourth all-time with 179 career steals.
While Ireland has been a mainstay in the Lions' line-up the last four seasons, playing short-handed is nothing new for the Lions in the six seasons under Head Coach Max Good. Junior Chase Flint, who has played in 42 games as a Lion with 24 starts, suffered a broken elbow against Portland on Thursday and will be out the rest of the season. He is the third former starter and fourth major contributor to be lost for the season in 2013-14. Combined with freshman Patson Siame's year of residency, the Lions will play the remainder of 2013-14 with just seven scholarship players. Entering Saturday's game, key players have missed 47 games this season, including Godwin Okonji (leg suffered in car accident prior to practice on Oct. 20, see LMULions.com for more) for the entire season (19 games), senior Ayodeji Egbeyemi (hip) the last 11 games, and freshman Nino Jackson (ankle) the last 15 games, all of whom the Lions will look at applying for a medical redshirt following the season. Freshman Gabe Levin also missed two games with a shoulder injury. The Lions have had seven starting line-ups this year, second only to Good's first season in 2008-09 for fewest line-ups. A year ago the Lions had 10 different starting line-ups as key players missed 30 games. In 2011-12 when they won 21 games, the Lions featured 11 starting line-ups but had key players miss just 25 games, the fewest in Good's tenure. In 2010-11 they had 15 line-ups with players missing 63 games. In 2009-10 in which the Lions had 18 wins, they had 10 line-ups with the second fewest missed games, 26. And in his first season, the Lions were down to six scholarship players at one point and key players missed 68 games.
The Lions enter the week second behind Pacific in the WCC and 12th in the NCAA hitting 75.5 percent on the season from the free throw line. Free throws played a key role in the last five games as Santa Clara went 24-for-27 (88.9 percent), hitting 22 of 23 in the second half and overtime. San Diego hit 20 of 22 free throws in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit and finished 23-for-29 (79.3%) for the game. And in the final game of the road swing, BYU went 30-for-38 (78.9%), hitting 19-for-25 in the second half. In the four games away from Gersten, opponents went 94-for-122 (77.0%) from the charity stripe, while LMU was 54-for-74 (73.0 percent). It was a drastic difference to the prior four wins in the four-game homestand as the Lions went 74-for-90 (82.2 percent) while opponents were 45-for-62 (72.6 percent).
The Lions have had double-digit offensive rebounds in 15 of the 19 games on the season, including 18 against Portland Thursday. They moved back to No. 1 in the WCC with 13.4 per game. They went for 13 offensive boards in outrebounding Santa Clara 41-36. The Lions had a season-high 20 offensive rebounds good for 23 second chance points in the win over UC Riverside. They equalled that total with 20 against La Sierra, going for a season-high 25 second chance points. Against Long Beach State the Lions had 19 offensive boards and held a 45-30 edge on the glass. They used five of their 19 offensive rebounds in the final minute to get the win at LBSU. Freshman Gabe Levin is eighth overall in rebounding at 7.6 and senior Alex Osborne is 19th at 5.2 rpg. Levin is fourth in the WCC with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game.
Freshman Evan Payne led the Lions with 27 points against BYU in the first meeting, posting his second straight career-high (24 points against La Sierra). The point total is tied for the fourth best by a freshman in LMU History. It is also the most ever by an LMU freshman in his first WCC game and the third-most by an LMU player in his conference debut. Payne now has 268 points on the season and is ranked 12th all-time for freshman scoring in a season.
Freshman Gabe Levin went for his fourth double-double in his young career with 14 points and 14 rebounds at Pittsburgh and is one of just five freshman to have multiple double-doubles in their debut season, and his four so far this season is now tied for the most in program history (Kevin Young - 4 - `08-09; Orlando Johnson - 3 - `07-08; Andy Osborn - 3 - `01-02; Luther Philyaw - 2 - `72-73). He has grabbed 14 rebounds in a single game three times already this season. Heading into the game with the Zags, Levin has 128 rebounds and is ranked eighth all-time for a freshman.
The Lions have had more turnovers than their opponents just three times in 19 games this season, giving it away just seven times to open WCC play against the Cougars. They had 10 steals and forced Portland into 17 turnovers to just 13 of their own on Thursday. They are averaging just 12.47 turnovers per game this season and rank third in the WCC in turnover margin at +1.47. The Lions have averaged under 13 turnovers a game just twice in program history. They averaged just 12.97 in 2009-10 and set the record in 1983-84 at 11.98 per game.