Feb. 9, 2011
The LMU men's basketball team returns home for its final three-game homestand of the season, starting with defending West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. The game will be on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com, while also airing on KXLU 88.9 FM. The Hannon Field Tailgate party starts at 6 p.m.
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This will be the 76th meeting between LMU and Gonzaga. The Zags improved to 55-21 in the series with a 79-59 win in Spokane on Jan. 15. The Zags have won the last two in the series, winning at the WCC semifinals a year ago, 77-62. In the last meeting at Gersten Pavilion (Feb. 18, 2010), the Lions claimed a 73-66 win over the then No. 9-ranked Bulldogs. In the first meeting, LMU headed to Spokane with a shortened bench for the second straight year and still managed to push Gonzaga with a first half tie. And for the second straight year, the Zags used an early second half push to pull away down the stretch for a 79-59 win. Drew Viney
led the Lions with 18 points, hitting 4-for-8 from the field, 2-for-2 from long range and 8-for-10 from the charity stripe. Freshman Anthony Ireland
scored 10 points with 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Robert Sacre scored 18 points, while Steven Gray finished with 16, scoring 13 of them to key the second half run. Despite just 4-of-18 shooting in the first 16 minutes of the game, the Lions closed the half on a 9-3 run, hitting four field goals in the final three minutes to send the game into the break tied at 33. LMU was the aggressor in the first half, going to the free throw line and keeping the game close for the late first half run by hitting 15 (83.3 percent). The Bulldogs responded as the aggressor to start the second half as they outscored the Lions 19-7 to build a 12-point lad, 52-40, with 11:56 to play. Early half shooting woes hindered the Lions again as they opened the second half just 3-for-13 from the field while the Zags hit 8-for-12 in the 12-point swing.
SOLES 4 SOULS
The West Coast Conference and Zappos.com have partnered with Soles for Soles for the third straight year to donate gently worn or new shoes to countries facing natural disasters. Through February 26, donation bins will be located in Gersten Pavilion for LMU to make donations for those in need. Fans interested in donating to the cause can bring their shoes to LMU basketball games through February 26. Soles4Souls is an organization that collects shoes and distributes them worldwide to those who are in need of simple commodities we often take for granted, such as a pair of shoes. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 7.5 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes, and are currently donating one pair every seven seconds. The shoes have been distributed to people in over 125 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States. LMU has led the conference in donations the last two years, winning the eight-school competition with over 3,500 pairs of shoes in 2009-10.
INSIDE THE LIONS
LMU enters the game against Gonzaga at 9-15 overall and 1-8 in the WCC, dropping five of those eight by an average of just three points, including Thursday's three-point setback to San Diego, a one-point double overtime setback to Portland, a one-point setback to USF and three points on the road to Pepperdine. Injuries continue to hinder the Lions' consistency as they have had a different starting line-up in eight straight games and have started 12 different line-ups on the season, six coming in WCC play. The 12th line-up change came Saturday against Saint Mary's as leading scorer and rebounder Drew Viney missed the game due to illness and migraines. The Lions' started three freshman, a sophomore and a senior on Saturday. Drew Viney and Vernon Teel rank 1-2 in points and rebounds again this season. Viney, who went for 26 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the year against Seattle, leads the team in scoring at 15.5 ppg and rebounds at 6.5 rpg, while Teel averages 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this season. Sophomore Ashley Hamilton has come on strong in the last few weeks, going for 16 points against Saint Mary's. He is now averaging 8.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest. Freshman Anthony Ireland is turning heads in his first season of college basketball, averaging 9.9 ppg and 2.9apg, earning his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting against Gonzaga.
The 2011 WCC season is proving to be one of a heartbreaking nature. Sixteen of the Lions' 24 games heading into Gonzaga have been decided by 10 points or less. The Lions are just 5-11 in those games. Seven have come in WCC play, with the Lions going just 1-6. Five of the last seven WCC games have been decided by a combined 15 points (3.0 per game). Overall on the season, LMU has had six setbacks by a combined 12 points. Those include Morgan State by two, Bradley by two, Portland by one, Pepperdine by three, USF by one and San Diego by three. The 2009-10 season was not one for the faint of heart either. The Lions had 22 of their 33 games decided by 10 points or less and they were 12-10 in those games, 5-4 in WCC play. In the last two years the Lions have played in 28 games decided by 10 points or less, going 17-21 overall and 6-10 against WCC opponents.
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, all three earning starts this season. Here is what they have done entering the week:
Anthony Ireland continues to make the most of his playing time as a true freshman, ranking third on the team in minutes per game at 30.0, 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. He is starting to work his way into the freshman record book, ranking 14th in points with 238, 10th in assists with 70 and tied for eighth in steals with 22. Entering the week he is 22nd in the WCC in scoring (9.9 ppg) and 10th in assists. He has shown to be steady at the point in averaging nearly two assists per turnover, and he has been even better in WCC play. He has only 11 turnovers in the nine conference games and is second in the league in WCC games with a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio (27 assists to 11 turnovers).
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. He now has 32 on the season to rank tied for 11th for blocks in a single season. He is averaging 5.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.65 steals per game. He entered the week ranked 14th in the WCC in rebounds, 3rd in blocks and 4th in offensive rebounds (2.3 orpg).
As for Ayodeji Egbeyemi, he struggled through an ankle injury suffered against Rider, missing four games. However, since WCC play has begun, he has taken off. He earned his first career start against Gonzaga, going for nine points in 27 minutes and has been in the starting rotation since. He had a break-out game against San Francisco Thursday, leading the team in points and rebounds with 15 and 10. It is his first career double-double and career-highs in both categories. Since WCC play began, Egbeyemi is averaging over 24.8 minutes per game in conference play while scoring 7.0 points per WCC contest, hitting 12-for-29 (41.4 percent) from the three-point line. He entered the week ranked seventh in the conference. Overall, Egbeyemi is averaging 5.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game with all of his three-pointers coming in WCC play.
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 18 of their 24 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 third in the WCC at +5.0. It has been a rebounding league in 2011, as seven of the eight teams in the WCC owning a positive rebound margin of +2.2 or better. Drew Viney leads the team at 6.5 per game, followed by Vernon Teel at 6.0, Ashley Hamilton at 5.6 and Godwin Okonji at 5.3, ranking sixth, seventh, 11th and 14th in the WCC, respectively.
The past two seasons, injuries and illness have plagued the Lions and they have reared their ugly head once again. LMU entered the season returning four of five starters from last year. Because of the injuries and illness, LMU had to start their 12th different line-up of the season on Saturday, and on the season have played just three games this season with all four of those returning starters healthy. Drew Viney sat out most of the second half against San Francisco due to migraines, and then missed the game at Saint Mary's due to the affects of migraines. He will be evaluated during the week heading into the Gonzaga game. In addition, Godwin Okonji suffered a broken nose against Portland. He missed the Gonzaga game but was back against Pepperdine. Prior to Okonji, a broken hand to Ashley Hamilton suffered against Sacramento State sidelined him for six games and he played for the first time in a month against Portland, going for five points, eight rebounds, two assists and four steals in 33 minutes... Junior Jarred DuBois has suffered through an injury to his right foot since the start of the 2009-10 season, and it has been compounded by ankle injuries throughout his career. The injury returned and he first missed the game against Long Beach State. He had surgery on Jan. 12, 2011 and will miss the entire season. He will apply for a medical redshirt... The ACL injury from last season of Edgar Garibay carried over to this season as he missed seven games due to soreness in his knee. He then suffered a concussion in practice prior to the UC Irvine game and did not play. He has played each of the conference games... Drew Viney also missed a pair of games this season due to a calf bruise. Ayodeji Egbeyemi also missed five games with an ankle sprain.
- GO LIONS -