GAME NOTES: The two lowest seeds in the West Coast Conference Tournament will tip-off the action on Wednesday when the Loyola Marymount Lions and Portland Pilots collide at Orleans Arena.
Portland swept the regular season series between these schools with a four- point win in Los Angeles and a 69-60 decision at home at the Chiles Center. LMU now maintains a 46-42 all-time series lead.
Max Good's Lions have dropped 14 consecutive decisions since their triumph over Santa Clara on Jan. 10 with the most recent coming on Saturday versus BYU as they fell, 73-70, to the Cougars after their late comeback effort came up short. Anthony Ireland reached 24 points with two seconds remaining as he hit a 3-pointer to make it a one possession game, but LMU was unable to register a foul to extend the game before the final buzzer. The loss dropped LMU to a 1-15 WCC record which is the reason for its last-place seeding in this year's postseason.
As it has struggled to collect wins, LMU has compiled the WCC's sixth best scoring offense at 65.6 ppg and the worst scoring defense with 70.0 points allowed per tilt. Ireland is the second leading scorer in the conference (20.6 ppg) and also deals out 3.7 assists per game. Ashley Hamilton adds 12.9 points and a team-best 6.9 boards per outing, but he is converting just 39.0 percent of his field goal attempts on the season. The Lions have been outscored by an average of 11.8 ppg by their conference foes in 2012-13.
After winning two games in three outings, Portland suffered back-to-back losses to Santa Clara (75-63) and Gonzaga (81-52) to conclude its regular season slate. Derrick Rodgers was the only Pilot in double figures in the loss to the Zags with 10 points, while Ryan Nicholas just missed a double-double with nine points and the same number of rebounds. The team was limited to 28.8 percent shooting from the floor while going 8-of-20 from 3-point range as Portland fell an 11-20 overall standing.
Coach Eric Reveno's team is enduring another rebuilding season, and while the team has shown flashes of potential, it is far from competing for the WCC crown. Nicholas is the leader of the team with 12.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest while Kevin Bailey chips in 11.1 ppg on 41.2 percent shooting from the field. Rodgers has really stepped up his play as his career nears its conclusion. The 6-foot-11 Thomas van der Mars has stepped up his play as of late with seven-straight double digit scoring outputs before a lackadaisical five-point outing versus Gonzaga. On the season, the Pilots are being outscored by an average of 7.3 ppg, which is the worst differential in the conference.
The Lions have played tough down the stretch despite their inability to finish off the job and end their current slide. Portland will need to keep an eye on Ireland as he is one of the top scorers in the league and has gotten more aggressive as his junior campaign nears its conclusion.
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