GAME NOTES: The last place Loyola Marymount Lions look to keep their season alive another day as they square off with the fourth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos in the quarterfinal round of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Friday.
The winner of this contest will advance to take on the nation's No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs in their first appearance since attaining the top ranking in the polls.
Max Good's Lions entered the postseason on a 14-game losing slide after finishing their regular season with just a single win in conference action. LMU appears to have saved its best for last as it took down Portland, 65-54, in the play-in round before outlasting San Francisco for a 61-60 overtime win on Thursday. The Lions have a great deal of momentum and also should be confident as their only WCC win of the season came over Santa Clara on Jan. 10.
LMU compiled the WCC's sixth-best scoring offense at 65.6 ppg and the worst scoring defense with 69.5 points allowed per tilt during the coarse of its forgettable regular season. Ireland is the second leading scorer in the conference (20.3 ppg) and also deals out 3.7 assists per game. Godwin Okonji and Ashley Hamilton each produced double-doubles for the Lions on Thursday. Okonji finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Hamilton chipped in 11 points and 14 rebounds. Ireland came through with 16 points as the team used a 40-32 edge on the boards to pull off the upset.
Kerry Keating's Broncos won four of their last five games before suffering an 80-67 setback at Saint Mary's in their regular-season finale. Santa Clara had a nine-game improvement in conference play, going from 0-16 last year to 9-7, the second-best single-season turnaround in WCC history. The Broncos fell one victory shy of tying the all-time league mark, established in 1988 by LMU. Santa Clara has a pair of dangerous scorers capable of ending LMU's run. Kevin Foster passed Kurt Rambis for the school's all-time scoring lead as he registered 26 double-digit outings this season. Marc Trasolini returned from an injury that kept him sidelined for all of last season to post 15.7 points and 7.8 boards per tilt.
In the Broncos' regular-season ending loss to SMC, Trasolini led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds while Foster went just 3-of-13 from the floor to net 14 points. Evan Roquemore finished with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists. Brandon Clark scored 10 points off the bench for SCU. The 13-point final margin was not a good indicator of the Broncos' competitiveness, as the contest featured nine ties and 11 lead changes.
This may be the end of the road for the streaking Lions. Santa Clara lost to the Lions in January, but coasted to a 79-56 decision in the more recent meeting on Feb. 28. Ireland will need to have a supreme performance to keep LMU afloat.
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