Nov. 21, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- For the third time in program history, the LMU men's basketball program will head to Anchorage, Alaska for the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout held at Sullivan Sports Arena Nov. 21-24. The Lions will open with Oral Roberts on Thanksgiving Day, taking on the the Golden Eagles for the seventh time in program history at 6 p.m. (PT) The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Net and on KXLU 88.9 FM.
INSIDE THE GREAT ALASKA SHOOTOUT
The Lions are making their third trip to the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout since 2002. LMU played in the 2002 tournament and then again in 2006. They went 1-2 in 2002, falling to Villanova, defeating Montana and then falling to Wyoming in the finale. In 2006, the Lions went 2-1, defeating host Alaska-Anchorage and then Pacific in double overtime before falling in the Great Alaska championship game to Cal, 78-70. The Lions will open the tournament with Oral Roberts, marking the seventh meeting between the two programs, the last coming in that 2006 season when the Lions opened the season with a 68-65 win at Gersten Pavilion. The Golden Eagles lead the series 4-2 with both teams winning all the games at home. This will be the first neutral court meeting.
The rest of the field for the 35th Annual Shootout features UC Riverside taking on Northeastern in the opener on Wednesday, Nov. 21, followed by Belmont taking on Alaska Anchorage on CBS Sports Net at 11 p.m. (PT). On the same side of the bracket with LMU will be Texas State taking on Charlotte following the LMU-Oral Roberts game at 7:30 p.m. On the Lions' side of the bracket, the losers will play at 4 p.m. (PT), Friday, Nov. 23 with the winners playing in the second semifinal on CBS Sports Network at 10:30 p.m. (PT). The championship game is at 9:30 p.m., Saturday. Of the remainder of the field, the Lions have faced three others, falling to Northeastern in their only meeting (1990: 152-123), defeating host Alaska Anchorage in 2006, while having faced local foe UC Riverside six times (UCR leads the series 4-2). They have never faced Belmont, Charlotte or Texas State.
INSIDE THE LIONS
The Lions are 2-1 on the young season after earning a 76-73 win over CSU Bakersfield in the second of five games away from home in a 20-day road swing. Junior Anthony Ireland had his 15th 20-point game in the win, doing a little of everything in scoring 26 points with nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals. He was 8-for-16 from the field and 9-for-12 from the charity stripe. Freshman Nick Stover had a huge game off the bench for the short-handed Lions, scoring 10 points. The Lions were without sophomores Bruce English and C.J. Blackwell for the third time this season (ankle and knee). Both traveled to CSUB but were not in uniform. They are day-to-day and will travel to Alaska.
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 (20.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 6.3 apg), who was named Preseason All-WCC after earning First-Team All-Conference a year ago, Ashley Hamilton (12.3 ppg, 8.0 apg), a fifth-year senior who averaged over 11 points and 5.6 rebounds a year ago, and Godwin Okonji (6.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg), who has led the team in blocks the last two years. They enter the fourth game of the season having played 218 combined games and have combined to make 187 starts. In addition, junior Ayodeji Egbeyemi (14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 8-for-15 3PT FG), who has started the first three games of the season, and redshirt junior Alex Osborne (3.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg) combine for 121 games of experience.
The youth: The rest of the Lions' scholarship roster is underclassmen. Sophomores Bruce English (missed first three games with ankle injury) and CJ Blackwell (missed first three games 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. The rest of the active roster are newcomers, with transfer Chase Flint (8.7 ppg, hitting 4-for-5 from three vs. CSUB), and freshmen Taj Adams (did not play against SMU & CSUB), Marin Mornar (10.0 mpg in two games), Nick Stover (9.0 ppg in 22.7 mpg) and Adam Drexler (7.0 mpg in two games)
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 in 2011-12, and through two games are holding teams to 33.9 percent. The Lions led the WCC in free throw percentage at 73.8 percent a year ago, and hit 72.4 percent against SMU and 74.1 percent against CSUB.
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.
The Lions have played in a non-conference tournament every year since 2001. Prior to 2001, the Lions had only played in one since 1991. Since 2001, the Lions have played in the Doubletree Los Angeles Westisde Centenial Classic (2011), the Naismith Memorial Basketball Tip-off (2010), The Grizzly Classic hosted by Montana (2009), the World Vision Classic hosted by Iowa State (2008), the BTI Invitational hosted by New Mexico (2007), the Great Alaska Shootout (2002 & 2006), the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic (2005), the Gosner Foods Classic hosted by Utah State (2004), the Mohegan Sun Classic hosted by Central Connecticut State (2003), the Big R Classic hosted by Montana State (2002) and the Guardian's Classic at the University of Alabama (2001). The Lions won the Mohegan Sun Classic in 2003. Since 2001, the Lions are 12-20 in regular season non-conference tournaments.
AT THE POINT
Junior Anthony Ireland enters the 2012-13 season turning heads and with good reason. Ireland is on the Lou Henson Player of the Year watch list and was named to the Lou Henson Award Preseason All-American Team. He also was named Preseason All-WCC as he begins his junior season as one of the most experienced players on the LMU roster, having played every single game he has been at LMU, playing 69 games with 62 starts entering the Great Alaska Shootout. With his 62 points and 19 assists to start the season, he now has 950 points and 282 assists (ranked 11th all-time) in his career and has been on a tear since the close of last season. He has started the 2012-13 season leading the the team in scoring and assists and is tied with Ashley Hamilton for the lead in rebounds. And he has just continued a pace he set last year in the postseason. Going back to the Lions' three games at the CIT, which incuded a double-double and three 20-plus point games, Ireland is averaging nearly 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game in his last six games. He earned his fourth career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds at SMU and then posted his 15th 20-point game with 26 points against CSUB, one off his career high, on Nov. 17. The Lions are 9-6 in games when he goes over 20 points. 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 and NABC All-District 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.
- GO LIONS -