Lions Head to Great Alaska, Oral Roberts First
Men's basketball to open third trip to Alaska with Oral Roberts on Thanksgiving Day.
Nov. 21, 2012
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 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
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.
AT THE POINT