Lions Advance to WCC Quarterfinals


March 3, 2016

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LAS VEGAS - A hot start and a late final push sent the seventh-seed LMU women's basketball team into the West Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinals with an 85-72 win over 10th-seed Portland Thursday afternoon at the Orleans Arena.

The Lions move to 11-19 on the season while the Pilots' season concluded at 3-27 overall. LMU advances to the tournament's quarterfinals for the third time in four years under Head Coach Charity Elliott. The Lions will face the second-seeded Saint Mary's Gaels at 2 p.m.

Behind 12 points from senior Sophie Taylor and 11 points from junior Leslie Lopez-Wood, the Lions came out on fire, hitting better than 64 percent from the field in the first quarter and wrapping up the first half of play hitting nearly 53 percent to take a 51-39 lead into the break. LMU also got nine points each from the freshmen duo of Andee Velasco and Cheyenne Wallace in the first half.

Foul trouble plagued the Lions in the third quarter as the Pilots made a run. A three by Velasco put the Lions ahead 57-40 with 7:48 to play. But Portland would go 13-of-15 at the charity stripe over the ensuing 4:15, spurring a 17-2 run that would bring the Pilots within two, 57-55 with 2:01 remaining.

Taylor knocked down a big three at the 1:28 mark to end a five-minute scoring drought and help LMU close out the quarter on a 6-0 run.

A Velasco three and a pair of Deanna Johnson free throws helped LMU build back a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter, 70-59. Portland would make one more run at it, again keyed at the charity stripe to pull within six, 73-67, with 5:40 remaining.

But Velasco responded again for the Lions with a long bank-shot three and Lopez-Wood hit a jumper in the lane on the next possession and the lead was immediately back to double-digits, 78-67. Portland would get no closer than eight down the stretch as the Lions completed a three-game sweep of the Pilots this season.

Velasco finished with a career-high 23 points, eight assist and six rebounds. Taylor added 15 points and 12 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. The Lions also got 16 points from Lopez-Wood, 11 from Wallace and 10 from Johnson to give the team five double-digit scorers for the first time since Feb. 15, 2014.

Portland was led by Darian Slaga and Corissa Turley who had 18 points apiece. Kylie Van Loo chipped in 15.

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