GAME NOTES: The Loyola Marymount Lions look to defeat the only West Coast Conference opponent they have already found success against this season as they venture to the Leavey Center to tangle with the Santa Clara Broncos.
LMU bounced back from back-to-back losses to BYU and Saint Mary's to begin WCC action with an unexpected, 84-80 victory over Santa Clara at home on Jan. 10. Anthony Ireland poured in 29 points for the Lions as they overcame a nine- point halftime deficit. Evan Roquemore paced SCU with 21 points while Kevin Foster was held to 3-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc. Despite the loss, the Broncos maintain an 83-55 all-time series lead over the Lions.
Max Good's Lions have dropped 13 consecutive decisions since their triumph over SCU with the most recent coming on Saturday at Cal Poly in the BracketBuster event. The contest looked like it was destined for overtime before the Mustangs' Dylan Royer drained a 3-pointer with less than a second remaining to lift Cal Poly to the 63-60 win. Ireland produced 19 points for the Lions, who lost on a buzzer-beater for the second consecutive outing despite hitting on 51.2 percent of their field goal tries. With just one win in 14 conference outings, LMU is buried at the bottom of the WCC standings with only a rematch with BYU remaining after Thursday.
As it has struggled to collect wins, LMU has compiled the WCC's sixth best scoring offense at 65.8 ppg and the worst scoring defense with 69.6 points allowed per tilt. Ireland is the second leading scorer in the conference (20.4 ppg) and also deals out 3.7 assists per game. Ashley Hamilton adds 12.9 points and a team-best 6.8 boards per outing, but he is converting just 39.5 percent of his field goal attempts on the season. The Lions have been outscored by an average of 11.6 ppg by their conference foes in 2012-13.
SCU knows exactly how LMU's rocky season feels as it finished winless in WCC action in 2011-12. However, The Broncos are one of the most improved teams in the NCAA this season as they come in with a 20-9 overall record including an 8-6 mark against league rivals after their 75-63 win at Portland on Saturday. Foster is one of the top scorers in the conference at 17.9 ppg, but he has plenty of help on the offensive end with Marc Trasolini (15.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Roquemore (12 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Raymond Cowels III (9.9 ppg).
Foster delivered a solid all-around performance in the team's win over the Pilots with 20 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. Cowels and Trasolini added 17 points apiece while Yannick Atanga dominated the glass with 16 rebounds. SCU hit on 44.8 percent of its shots from the floor including 10-of-25 from 3-point range while holding Portland to 35.9 percent efficiency from the field. The Broncos also held a 42-29 edge in the rebounding battle. Coach Kerry Keating has done a terrific job getting his squad to maintain balance, as the Broncos are fourth in the WCC in scoring offense (74.2) and just one spot back in scoring defense (66.9).
The new venue for the grudge match will help SCU avoid another loss to the struggling Lions. LMU has played tough in recent action with only two losses by double-digit margins over its past seven games. However, the Broncos have much more to play for if they hope to keep pressure on BYU in the race for third place.
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