Feb. 28, 2009
Moraga, CA - Fighting to avoid its fourth straight loss to end the regular season, LMU was victimized by Maija Lahde's shot with 4.7 seconds left to fall 61-59 at Saint Mary's at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, CA. The Lions (17-11, 7-7 WCC) suffer their sixth defeat in conference play by four or fewer points but hang on to the fourth seed and a first-round bye at next week's WCC Tournament while the Gaels (11-18, 7-7 WCC) wrap up the fifth seed.
LMU's loss, coupled with the win by Saint Mary's and San Diego's loss at Gonzaga, dropped the teams into three-way tie for fourth place in the WCC standings. The Lions gain the crucial fourth seed via the round-robin head-to-head tiebreaker, having gone 2-0 against the Toreros and splitting with the Gaels. Despite splitting the season series with USD, Saint Mary's wins the next tiebreaker and the fifth seed vs. USD by virtue of its win Saturday over the Lions. San Diego will be the sixth seed.
Freshman Alex Cowling scored 10 of LMU's final 12 points to rally the Lions back from a 10-point second-half deficit, finishing with a game-high 16 points while adding six rebounds. Senior Cassady Moore had 11 points and seven rebounds but missed the game-tying layup as time expired. Sophomore Renahy Young chipped in nine points off the bench.
LMU shot 33.3% (20-for-60) overall but just 15.4% (2-for-13) from three-point range, including missing its first 11 from behind the arc. In a game where free throw shooting was a theme, the Lions were a solid 73.9% (17-for-23) at the line. They also capitalized with 20 points off of 18 SMC turnovers but could not do the same on the offensive glass, grabbing 13 o-boards but scoring only four second chance points.
On a day in which she was honored, SMC senior Maija Lahde paced the Gaels with 15 points and nine rebounds, including the game-winning basket with 4.7 seconds left. Louella Tomlinson had a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds while Alex Carbonel had nine points and nine boards and Ashlee Smith also had nine points. The Gaels shot 34.4% (21-for-61) from the floor, 27.3% (3-for-11) from long-range, and 61.5% (16-for-26) at the line while holding a 48-42 rebounding advantage.
As one would expect from the regular season finale, the first half was a tight affair, featuring nine ties and nine lead changes. LMU held its largest lead at 24-19 on a jumper by Cowling while Saint Mary's led by no more than three at any point. Most action in the first half came from the referees' whistles as a combined 25 fouls were called in the opening 20 minutes. That equated to 33 foul shot attempts in the first half, with LMU going 14-for-18 and SMC 12-for-15. The Lions finished the half on an 8-1 run, however, to go into the lock room leading 38-33.
Saint Mary's scored the first 10 points of the second half to take 43-38 lead, as LMU missed its first nine shots from the floor. A rebound-put back by sophomore Melanie Ysaguirre at 13:20 halted the drought but a three-pointer and layup by Ashlee Smith put the Gaels up 51-43 with 9:25 to go.
The second-half shooting woes that had plagued the Lions recently carried over to Saturday. LMU made just three of its first 20 (15%) shots of the half, unable to stop the momentum Saint Mary's was building. Another bucket by Smith gave SMC its largest lead, 55-45, but the Lions answered with a layup by sophomore Aleyse Evans and a Cowling three to cut it to five.
The Lions started to get stops and converted on offense for a 7-0 run to cut it to one. Cowling bookended a Moore layup with a jumper and a three for a 58-57 deficit. After an SMC free throw made it a two-point game, Cowling was fouled going to the basket, sinking both to tie it up with 51.3 seconds left. LMU got the stop it needed but a tie-up on the loose ball gave Saint Mary's its 16th offensive rebound of the game. The Gaels ran the clock down, getting the ball to Lahde, whose turnaround in the lane hit every part of the rim before dropping through with 4.7 on the clock. Needing to go 94 feet, LMU called its final two timeouts to set up a play. It was drawn up to perfection; inbounding to Moore, who broke the press herself and penetrated the lane, only for her layup to fly too strong at the buzzer.
LMU now heads to Las Vegas for next week's West Coast Conference Tournament, which will be held at a neutral site for the first time in history. The Lions will have a bye until the quarterfinals at 12 noon on Saturday and will face the winner of Friday's Saint Mary's-Santa Clara first-round game.
- GO LIONS -