Men's Basketball

Road Trip to End in PCH Series Showdown

Ayodeji Egbeyemi earned his first start last week.

Ayodeji Egbeyemi earned his first start last week.

Jan. 21, 2011

LMU enters the final game of its longest road swing of conference play when they head just north to face their longest running rival in program history, Pepperdine. The team's will meet for the 153rd time on Saturday, Jan. 22 in Firestone Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. The two rivals, who compete for the PCH Cup, both enter at 1-3 in conference play, with LMU at 8-10 overall and Pepperdine at 7-14 overall. The game can be heard on KXLU 88.9 FM.

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INSIDE THE LIONS
LMU enters the final game of their three-game WCC road swing at 8-10 overall and 1-3 in the WCC, falling to Portland in double overtime (79-78) and Gonzaga (79-59) to start the road trip the previous weekend. With the nose injury suffered to Godwin Okonji against the Pilots, LMU was forced to change the line-up for the seventh time on the season. He is expected to return to the line-up on Saturday. The Lions are once again led by the 1-2 punch of Drew Viney and Vernon Teel. The 2009-10 First-Team All-WCC selections are 1-2 in points and rebounds. Viney, who went for 24 and 18 last week, leads the team in scoring at 15.5 ppg, while Teel averages 13.6. Teel is averaging 8.0 rebounds in conference play and has jumped to 7.3 rebounds per game on the season, just ahead of Viney's 6.9 rpg. The duo has helped the Lions to a +7.1 rebound margin on the season (ranked second in the WCC), outrebounding every team so far in WCC play. The Lions have also dug-in on defense, leading the WCC in steals (7.39) and ranking second in blocks (3.83). Senior Larry Davis and freshman Anthony Ireland continue to give the Lions' a potent three-guard line-up. Ireland is turning heads in his first season of college basketball, averaging 9.9 ppg and 3.06 apg after going for 15 points for the second straight game Thursday night and his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Gonzaga. As for Davis, he continues to thrive after entering the starting line-up on Dec. 1. He leads the team in three-point shooting at 38.8 percent (22-for-57), and is averaging 8.8 points per contest. He entered the week ranked 12th in the WCC in three-point percentage (40.0) and 26th in scoring.

THE MATCH-UP
LMU and Pepperdine will meet for the 153rd time on the season, and the meeting will count towards the PCH Cup. Now in its second year, the PCH Cup is a season-long competition encompassing all athletic meetings between the two local rivals separated by just 19.1 miles. Pepperdine won the first crown in 2009-10 (14.5 to 8.5), while LMU leads the current season 5.0 to 4.0. A home win is worth one points, a road win is worth 1.5 points. Both home teams won in last year's series with the Lions taking a bonus point for the win in the WCC tournament, the last meeting between the two (LMU 87, Pep. 84)... The Waves hold a 90-62 edge in the series, going 46-16 in Malibu. Firestone Fieldhouse complete a three-game trip for the Lions against the toughest places to play of late as the Lions last win at Firestone came in 1998 (12 games). Pepperdine won the meeting in Malibu last year by erasing a 17-point deficit as Mychel Thompson hit a career best six-of-seven three-pointers to finish with 22 points. The Lions then won at Gersten Pavilion 77-61 on Feb. 6 and then again in Las Vegas for their first winning streak since winning the last meeting in 1997 (64-60) and the first in 1998 (81-79 ot), both coming Malibu. The Lions have been shutout there since.

BIG START
With an experienced roster returning, the Lions added just three scholarship players to the roster. Freshmen Anthony Ireland, Ayodeji Egbeyemi and Godwin Okonji have already made the most of their opportunity, here is what they have done entering the week:
Anthony Ireland has made the most notable impact, ranking third on the team in minutes per game at 29.9, just behind the Lions' two returning All-WCC performers (Teel and Viney). It started with a bang for Ireland, becoming the first freshman to hit a three-pointer in his first game on his first attempt as he finished with five points, three rebounds and a steal against Morgan State. He earned his first start against Rider, and posted a career-best 21-point performance against South Dakota. Against San Diego, he went for 15 points, five assists, three rebounds, one block, one steal and just one turnover in 34 minutes. He then followed that with 15 points, three rebounds, an assists, a steal and no turnovers. Entering the week he is 22nd in the WCC in scoring (9.9 ppg), 10th in assists (3.1), 8th in assists/turnover ratio (1.72), 11th in steals and (1.1 spg).
Godwin Okonji went for 11 points, five rebounds and six blocks in the win over Sacramento State and has been a fixture in the starting line-up. The six blocks was the most since Sherman Gay had six on Jan. 17, 2003, and one shy of Silvester Kainga's school record of seven on Dec. 2, 1998 against Cal State Fullerton. He was one rebound shy of the record held by Wyking Jones for rebounds by a freshman in his first game (9). Okonji did set the record for blocks (4) and tied the record for steals (3) for a freshman in his first game. Okonji followed that performance with a five-point, 10-rebound performance against La Sierra. He joins Ireland and senior Larry Davis as the only Lion to play in every game on the season. He is averaging 5.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 0.63 steals per game. He is ranked 12th in the WCC in rebounds, 3rd in blocks and 3rd in offensive rebounds (2.6 orpg).
• As for Egbeyemi, he earned his first career start against Gonzaga, going for nine points in 27 minutes. Against Saint Mary's, he did it from long distance, hitting 3-of-4 from the three-point line. After missing four games from an ankle injury suffered against Rider, Egbeyemi is averaging over 21 minutes per game in conference play and 7.0 per contest. Overall, he is averaging 4.6 points per game.

ON THE BOARDS
In 2009-10, the Lions had a rebound margin of -0.6 and out-rebounded opponents in just 13 of the 34 games. In 2011, that trend has reversed in a big way. The Lions have outrebounded 17 of their 18 opponents this season, including a +10 margin over San Diego and a +8 against Portland. This season also includes a 52-26 rebounding edge against La Sierra, the most team rebounds since 54 against UNLV on Jan. 3, 2001. The Lions entered the week second in the WCC at +7.1 heading into WCC play as seven of the eight teams in the WCC have a positive rebound margin of +2.0 or better. Vernon Teel leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game, followed by Drew Viney with 6.9 rpg, Ashley Hamilton at 5.7 and freshman Godwin Okonji is third at 5.5.

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