Godwin Okonji had three blocks Friday.
Nov. 10, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- With the opening weekend of the 2012-13 college basketball season just hours old, LMU will hit the road in a hurry, making the program's first-ever trip to SMU on Sunday, Nov. 11 for a 4 p.m., tip-off. The Lions left campus seven hours after their season opening win and will face the Mustangs in their first game under new Head Coach Larry Brown. The game can be heard on KXLU 88.9 FM, online through LMULions.com and on the LMU mobile app.
INSIDE THE LIONS
The Lions opened the season with a 108-49 win over Pacifica, winning its season opener for the second straight season (defeated #18 UCLA in 2011-12) and claiming a win in the season opener at home for the first time since 2006-07. It is the Lions' fourth straight win at home dating back to last season.
The Lions played the entire active roster in scoring 108 points, the most since the Lions scored 116 at Nevada on Nov. 29, 1991. It is the the largest margin of victory in program history. The Lions finished the game with 31 assists and 61 rebounds, the most since the respective records were set (40 assists on Jan. 5, 1991; 82 rebounds on Jan. 7, 1989 - both against USIU). After scoring 55 first half points, the Lions scored 25 points in the first five minutes of the second half to blow the game open. Six players scored in double figures, including a career-best 20 by junior Ayodeji Egbeyemi. In addition, they had the first double-double by a freshman in their first game as Marin Mornar had 13 points and 11 rebounds. The 11 boards was also the best by a freshman in their debut.
LMU returns eight letterwinners, including three starters, from the 2011-12 season that finished 21-13 overall and 11-5 (4th) in the WCC. Many of the Lions' marks last season trace back to the 1989-90 Elite Team, including its first 20-win season, the most conference wins, first postseason win, first team to earn consecutive postseason wins, most home wins (12), and best road record (9-4). In addition, the 21 wins is the fourth most in school history and the Lions' 11 conference wins is tied with the 1967-68 team for the third most.
It will be a combination of experience and the unknown as the Lions will enter the season with a 15-man roster that has just 15 years of NCAA Division-I basketball experience - one of the youngest rosters in the country.
The experience: LMU returns starters Anthony Ireland (19 points on 8-for-10 shooting with seven assists in the opener), who was named Preseason All-WCC after earning First-Team All-Conference a year ago, Ashley Hamilton (11 pts, 9 rebs in 13 minutes against Pacifica), a fifth-year senior who averaged over 11 points and 5.6 rebounds a year ago, and Godwin Okonji (8 pts, 7 reb., 3 blocks), who has led the team in blocks the last two years. They enter the season having played 209 combined games and have combined to make 178 starts. In addition, redshirt junior Alex Osborne (8 reb., 2 asts, 2 blcks in 17 min.) and junior Ayodeji Egbeyemi (9-for-16 from field with 6 asts) come off the bench with 117 games of experience.
The youth: The rest of the Lions' scholarship roster is underclassmen. Sophomores Bruce English (missed opener with ankle injury) and CJ Blackwell (out 3 to 4 weeks with knee injury) had solid first seasons, with English earning the start in the exhibition game on Oct. 30 while Blackwell showed flashes of offensive fireworks a year ago but remains out three to four weeks due to a foot injury. The rest of the active roster are newcomers, with transfer Chase Flint (14 pts, 8 asts, 6 reb., 3 stls), and freshmen Taj Adams (10 mins, 1 pt, 1 reb), Marin Mornar (18 min with block and steal), Nick Stover (12 pts, 2 asts, 3 stls in 24 min.) and Adam Drexler (2 pts., 5 reb. in 13 min.)
LMU finished the 2011-12 season ranked 20th in the NCAA Division I National Rankings in three-point field goal defense and 39th in free throw percentage. The Lions held opponents to a league low 30.2 percent from long range overall, while limiting opponents to just 28.4 percent in WCC games. The Lions led the WCC in free throw percentage at 73.8 percent on the season. In the final three games at Gersten Pavilion, they hit 83-of-102, including a 31-for-35 (88.6%) clip in the regular season final against Santa Clara and then a 32-for-40 (80%) clip against CSF in the first round of the CIT.
The Lions finished with 12 victories at Gersten Pavilion a year ago, the second most (1986, 1990, 1996) since the building opened in 1981-82. The 14-0 record at home in 1987-88 is the most in school history. In addition, the 49,597 combined attendance last season was the most in school history.
The win at Saint Mary's in the final road game of the season improved the Lions to 7-1 on the road in WCC play and a final 9-4 record away from home. It's the best conference road record since going 6-1 in that 1989-90 season, and the seven wins matches the road win total of the 1987-88 team, who went 14-0 in league play. In addition, the 9-4 overall road record is the best road record since winning 11 games in that Elite Eight season. Included in this season's road record was a six-game winning streak to start WCC road play, matching the 1990-91 team for the most consecutive road wins (overall).
The Lions played four overtime games in a season for the first time since 1994-95, winning all four. It is the first time in program history the Lions have won four overtime games in a single season.
Head Coach Max Good returns for his fifth season at LMU and was named WCC Coach of the Year in 2011-12. The Lions picked up Good's 296th career win as he inches closer to the 300-win plateau. The Lions have found success in the big games under Good. The trip to the 2012 CIT is the team's second postseason trip in three seasons. Prior to Good's arrival, it was 20 years since the Lions last made a trip to postseason play. The Lions were 3-2 last season (W - #17 UCLA, #23 Saint Louis, #16 Saint Mary's; L - #23 Gonzaga, #16 Saint Mary's) against ranked opponents, 4-4 in the last three season under Good. The games against UCLA and Florida State were the eighth and ninth time under Good the Lions played a team from the "BCS" conferences. The Lions are 3-6 in those meetings, defeating USC (67-59), Notre Dame (87-85) and now UCLA (69-58), all on the road. In addition, Good has led the Lions to more road wins and more conference wins than any head coach since Paul Westhead.
AT THE POINT
Junior Anthony Ireland enters the 2012-13 season as a Preseason All-WCC selection after he earned second-team NABC All-District honors, the first Lion on record to earn the honor. He is one of the most experienced players on the roster, having played every single game he has been at LMU, playing 67 games with 60 starts entering the game at SMU. With his 19 points Friday, he now has 907 points in his career and has been on a scoring run since the close of last season. Ireland finished 2011-12 earning his 11th 20-point game of the season against Utah State and second double-double with 20 points and 10 assists in the win over Weber State. He was the only Lion to play every game last season and was second in the WCC in minutes played at 36.5 per game. The first-team All-WCC selection was second in the WCC in scoring at 16.1 points per game and fourth with 4.9 assists per contest. He earned two WCC Player of the Week honors, his second coming with 16 points and seven assists in the win over ranked Saint Mary's, and 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the win over Valpo. His first was after his 27-point effort in the win over BYU and he became just the second Lion since 1998 to earn a double-double with points and assists. He added seven assists to his total against Pacifica and now has 270 career assists, which ranks 13th all-time and one behind Corey Gaines, who is 12th with 271.
- GO LIONS -