A Familiar Setting Opens WCC Championships
Lions to face Portland for third time in four years to open WCC Championships on Thursday.
March 4, 2014
LOS ANGELES -- For the second straight West Coast Conference Championship and the third time in four years, LMU men's basketball will open tournament play with Portland, facing the Pilots on Thursday, Mar. 6 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. Game time is set for 6 pm, and can be seen on BYUtv, through the web on TheW.tv and listen live on KXLU 88.9 FM.
INSIDE THE LIONS
The final stretch of the record-setting four-year career of Anthony Ireland continues to put him in rare company within the history of LMU men's basketball. He continues to add to his legacy as one of the program's all-time best players, joining Hank Gathers and Forrest McKenzie as the only Lions to earn first-team All-Conference honors by the West Coast Conference three times. Ireland was selected first-team All-WCC for the third straight year, as announced with the release of the WCC postseason honors on Monday. While Ireland continues to add to his career numbers, LMU's season was also about the beginning of the careers of freshmen Gabe Levin and Evan Payne. The two newcomers were named to the five-team WCC All-Freshman team, adding postseason honors to their record-setting freshman seasons.
Senior Anthony Ireland continues to cement himself even more in the LMU record books, not missing a game and not one day of practice in his three-year career. LMU has played 5,260 minutes since Ireland joined the program. He has played in 4,576 of them, making him the only Lion in LMU history with at least 2,000 career points, 500 career rebounds, 500 career assists and 150 career steals. He is the only active player in the NCAA to have hit those milestones. As of Mar. 2 he is second in the league at 18.7 ppg (61st nationally), second in assists at 5.37 (37th nationally) and second in steals at 1.63. With 560 points (ranked 39th in the NCAA as of Mar. 2), 161 assists (ranked 31st) and 49 steals (ranked 86th) in 2013-14, Ireland now ranks third in points with 2,136, third in assists with 545 and second in steals at 196. He has turned some heads in the process, here are some headlines from the season:
Ireland/Osborne Senior Video The Next Step - LA Times
Heart of a Warrior - Daily Breeze
2014 Senior CLASS Award Candidate
Watch-list for the Bob Cousy Award
Preseason Lou Henson Award All-American
One of nation's most unknow top players (CBS)
LMU Magazine: "Ice Man"
College Hoops Daily
Freshman Evan Payne scored 27 points for the second time in his rookie campaign against Santa Clara, adding to his all-time freshman scoring record with 463 points. He had 13 points against USF for his freshman record 24th double-digit scoring game of the season. He has six 20-point games, equalling a record shared by three players. The 27 points he scored Thursday and in the first meeting against BYU is tied for the fourth best by a freshman in LMU History and his 25 is tied for ninth. The BYU game was the first of conference, making the point total the most ever by an LMU freshman in his first WCC game and the third-most by an LMU player in his conference debut. He is just the second freshman in LMU history to go over 400 and his 15.4 ppg is ranked eighth in the WCC and is on pace to set the LMU freshman record for ppg in a season. He is also ranked 8th in the WCC in free throw percentage (84.5%) and 9th in steals (13 spg), grabbing eight last week, getting four against both Santa Clara and San Francisco. His 40 steals are ranked fourth for a freshman at LMU.
Freshman Gabe Levin went for his freshman record fifth double-double against Pacific on Jan. 23 with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He is one of just five freshman to have multiple double-doubles in their debut season at LMU. He has grabbed 14 rebounds in a single game three times this season. Heading into the WCC tournament, Levin has 189 rebounds and is ranked second all-time for a freshman. In addition, he has 30 blocks on the year, ranking 13th in LMU history for blocks in a season by any player, and his 1.1 bpg is ranked 6th within the WCC this season. His rebound average of 7.0 is ranked ninth in the WCC and would also rank second for rebounds per game in a season for a freshman at LMU.
The Lions enter the week second behind Pacific in the WCC and 9th in the NCAA (as of Mar. 2) hitting 75.9 percent on the season from the free throw line, going 23-for-28 against the Broncos (82.1%). The Lions with 17-for-19 against Gonzaga as Anthony Ireland hit 10-for-11. The Lions hit season-high 31-for-37 effort against Pacific (the most since going 32-for-40 against CS Fullerton in the CIT on Mar. 14, 2012). The all-time program record is 77.7 percent sent in the 2001-02 season.
The Lions have had more turnovers than their opponents just seven times in 30 games this season, giving it away just seven times to open WCC play against the Cougars and then a season-low six in the win over Pacific on Jan. 23 (the fewest since five against Portland Jan. 12, 2013). They matched the season low with six against Pepperdine on Feb. 20. They had just seven against San Francisco to end the regular season. The Lions are averaging just 12.17 turnovers per game this season while leading the league in steals at 7.23 per game. LMU ranks second in the WCC in turnover margin at +1.57. LMU had seven steals against Santa Clara on Thursday, forcing them into 20 turnovers, nearly 11 over their average coming into the game. They finished with a 23-15 edge in points off turnovers. Against USF, they had a 13-4 edge in points off turnovers, forcing the Dons into 14 turnovers on seven steals. 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.
LMU has stayed aggressive despite the depleted roster, heading into the week the Lions are one of the best in the WCC in getting And-1 opportunities. They are ranked second with 49 and-1 chances, second only to Saint Mary's 51 (basket and made free throw). Freshman Evan Payne leads the WCC in completing 16 And-1 chances. Anthony Ireland is fourth on that list with 12.
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. The Lions played just the second game in LMU history with just six players after Gabe Levin missed the cgame with a concussion. Junior Chase Flint, who had played in 42 games as a Lion with 24 starts, suffered a broken elbow against Portland on Jan. 16 and is out the rest of the season. He is the third former starter to be lost for the season in 2013-14 due to injury. Levin is expected to be back in the line-up for the WCC tournament. However, combined with freshman Patson Siame's year of residency, the Lions will play this weekend with just seven scholarship players. It has shown up the last four games for the Lions as Anthony Ireland had played 137 straight minutes before coming out due to foul trouble against USF. In addition, the Lions' opponents have held a 119-18 edge in points off the bench the last four contests.
Entering the WCC tournament, key players have missed 67 games this season due to injury, including Flint's 12 games, Godwin Okonji (leg suffered in car accident prior to practice on Oct. 20, see LMULions.com for more) for the entire season (30 games) and senior Ayodeji Egbeyemi (hip) the last 22 games. The two seniors will look to apply for a medical redshirt and the end of the season. Levin also missed two games with a shoulder injury at the end of non-conference. The Lions have had 10 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. Other impacts on the roster this season have included freshman Nino Jackson, who has been out after a severe ankle sprain prior to the game against UC Riverside on Dec. 2, withdrawing from the University and is no longer with the program due to personal reasons. Sophomore transfer Ben Dickinson missed the game on Jan. 18 against Gonzaga and also remains out indefinitely for personal reasons.
Alex Osborne wraps up a blue-collar type career. He played in his 123rd game against San Francisco, good for second all-time behind teammate Anthony Ireland. And as his career wraps-up, Osborne went for 21 rebounds in the final two regular season games of his career. In addition, he scored 20 points with 17 rebounds, eight of which were offensive, in the win over La Sierra. It was the first 15-15 game by a Lion since Dec. 28, 2009. He went 8-for-10 from the field, had two assists, two steals and a block in the win. Osborne has 116 career steals and is 17th all-time in LMU history. His 483 career rebounds in 29th all-time.