Dec. 18, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- For just the second time in program history, a member of the Southeastern Conference will come to LMU as the Lions host Ole Miss on Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. This will be the 24th different opponent from a "BCS" conference to visit the bluff, the last coming when Florida State came during the holidays of 2010. The game will be televisied on ESPNU, and can be seen on WatchESPN.com and ESPN3. The game can also be heard on KXLU 88.9 FM.
INSIDE THE GAME
LMU last played on Dec. 5 when they traveled to Northern Arizona for a 92-86 in overtime win. The Lions are coming off a two-week lay-off for finals and will host a team from the SEC for just the second time in school history. The only teams from the SEC to visit LMU are from the state of Mississippi as Mississippi State traveled to Gersten Pavilion on Dec. 19, 2007. Overall, this will be just the 12th meeting against teams from the current SEC, with three of those meetings coming against Texas A&M when they were in the Big 12. The Lions have two wins against the conference, defeating Alabama in the 1990 NCAA Sweet 16 and then Texas A&M in College Station in 2001. This will be the 25th opponent from a "BCS" or "power" conference to visit LMU, the seventh in the last decade. The most recent was Florida State in 2010. This will be the Lions' (5-4) fourth home game of the season and just the second road game for Ole Miss (7-1). The Rebels are coming off a 77-55 win over ETSU on Dec. 14 as leading Marshall Henderson had 22 points in the game. He leads the team with 17.8 ppg.
INSIDE THE LIONS
The Lions are 5-4 on the young season after defeating Northern Arizona on Dec. 5, 2012, 92-86 in overtime. Junior Anthony Ireland continues to shine with 28 points on 11-for-22 shooting, including a three-pointer toward the end of regulation to send the game to overtime in Flagstaff, Ariz. He is second in the league in scoring at 21.2 (just .1 out of the league lead), 11th in rebounds at 5.4 rpg, fifth in assists at 4.8 apg, fourth in steals at 2.0 spg and tops in minutes play at 36.1. He had three 20-plus point games at the Great Alaska Shootout, giving him 19 in his career. In the win over Texas State, he scored his 1,000th career point and he is now 27th all-time with 1,078 points.
Senior Ashley Hamilton is having his best season as a Lion, averaging 15.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg after his career-best 24 points and six rebounds against NAU. Hamilton has scored in double figures every game this season and has bettered his total each of the last five games. He is eighth in the league in scoring and fifth in rebounding entering the week. In his fifth season, Hamilton has 875 points and 480 rebounds and is on pace to become just the 14th Lion to reach a 1,000 career points an 500 career rebounds.
The Lions have showed strength on the glass of late, ranking second in the WCC entering the week with a +7.3 rebound margin, out rebounding their opponents in six of nine games on the season. The Lions out rebounded Texas State 48-32 and Portland State 41-27. The Lions lead the league in pulling down 40.4 rebounds per game, including a league best 14.0 offensive rebounds per game.
Junior Ayodeji Egbeyemi is off to his best season, sitting third on the team with 12.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game, ranking 15th and 8th in the WCC, respectively. He had his second career double-double on Nov. 29 with 16 points and 11 rebounds against LBSU. He leads the team with 18 three-pointers and is shooting 40.9 percent from long range, going 3-for-6 in the overtime win against NAU.
More from long range: The Lions hit 13-for-25 (52%) from three on Nov. 29 against LBSU and then upped that by one with a 14-for-25 (56%) effort agaisnt NAU. The Lions are third in the league with 7.9 three-pointers per game and are hitting 39.2 percent as a team, also third in the WCC. The top four scorers are all above 40 percent, including Hamilton at 55 percent (11-for-20) to rank second in the WCC. Ireland is ranked fifth in the league, hitting 47.1 percent (16-for-34) and Egbeyemi is 14th at 40.9 percent (18-for-44). Sophomores C.J. Blackwell and Bruce English, both of which missed games early due to injury, have come off the bench to provide more shooting. In six games, Blackwell is hitting 42.1 percent from three and is averaging 7.2 ppg in nearly 16 minutes a contest. As for English, he played his first game of the season on Dec. 5 and came off the bench to score 10 points, hitting 2-of-4 from long range.
The 2012-13 season is a combination of experience and the unknown as the Lions returned eight letterwinners, including three starters, from last year's team that had the best season since the Elite Eight campaign at 21-13 overall and 11-5 (4th) in the WCC. With the experience, however, there is plenty of youth. The 15-man roster has just 15 years of NCAA Division-I basketball experience - one of the youngest rosters in the country.
Godwin Okonji underwent an emergency Laparoscopic Appendectomy on the evening Dec. 12. Okonji was up and walking on Thursday morning and was released from the hospital on Friday. He attended, but did not participate in practice over the weekend. Head Coach Max Good does not expect him to be ready for Wednesday's game. "Godwin has had a rough couple days and for him to show that kind of pain means this was serious. Thankfully, it has been taken care of and he is doing well and is already up and about. He is the type of kid that does not want to miss a second and has never missed a game due to injury. He has already told us he plans for that to continue. We aren't so sure about that and we will see how he progresses, but that shows you the type of person he is. We are thankful that everything seems to be going well." Okonji has started every game this season and has 64 career starts in his two-plus seasons as a Lion. He has played in 73 games (out of 75 opportunities) in his career and is coming off a seven-point, nine-rebound performance at Northern Arizona on Dec. 5. It has been a tough start to the season for Okonji, whose father passed away in Africa at the start of the season in November. Despite all that, he is averaging six points and 3.8 rebounds in just over 22 minutes of action per game this season.
GAMEDAY AT LMU
The match-up with Ole Miss will be the second of three straight games on national television as ESPNU will broadcast the game live from Gersten Pavilion. The game can also be seen through WatchESPN.com and ESPN3. The game will also celebrate the holiday season with elementary students from the LMU Family of Schools and LMU Cares programs. The LMU Pep Band will perform a holiday show at halftime. In addition, an LMU Holiday Ornament and Go Lion signs will be the giveaway for the game. Following Wednesday's game, the Lions will head to Saint Louis on Dec. 22 for a game to be aired on Fox Sports Midwest. Following the trip to Saint Louis on Dec. 22, the Lions will return home for the final pair of non-conference games before WCC play begins. The Lions will host Morgan State in the second LMU Holiday Classic on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. The game is FREE TO ALL, and Sodexo will once again be offering $1 hotdogs during the game. The Lions will then finish non-conference play in 2012 with the return match-up with CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. In addition, the Lions PCH Cup showdown at Gersten Pavilion against Pepperdine on Jan. 24 has been moved up to 6 p.m. and will be aired on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. At least 17 games will be televised this year for the Lions.
- GO LIONS -