GAME NOTES: Two teams seeking a 10th win on the season get together in Los Angeles tonight, as the Loyola Marymount Lions host the San Diego Toreros in West Coast Conference action.
The Lions, who have a four-game conference road trip on the horizon beginning on Jan. 2, is closing out a four-game homestand with this outing and would like nothing more than to make it a clean sweep after taking down Cal Poly, La Sierra, and most recently BYU on Saturday in an 87-76 final in the conference opener.
With the victory versus the Cougars, LMU is a perfect 4-0 at home on the season.
Meanwhile, the Toreros were just west of Los Angeles over the weekend as they clashed with the Pepperdine Waves in Malibu. Unfortunately, unlike the Lions, USD came up short in its conference opener in a 75-64 decision at Firestone Fieldhouse. The loss was the second in the last three outings for the program and the fourth in six tries after opening the campaign with seven wins in eight tries.
These two California-based conference foes are meeting for the 87th time tonight and the victor will take a one-game lead in the all-time series. San Diego managed to knot the series at 43-43 by winning three straight matchups.
With only nine made field goals in the first half, the Toreros dug themselves a hole versus Pepperdine and were never able to climb out. Granted, Johnny Dee tried to save the day with his game-high 26 points, shooting 4-of-6 behind the 3-point line, but the rest of his teammates were just 3-of-10 on the perimeter. Dennis Kramer produced 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, followed by Duda Sanadze with 10 points.
San Diego has kept the starting five intact through all 14 games thus far, allowing Dee to claim the top scoring spot with his 18.3 ppg. Dee has made an impressive 90.9 percent of his free-throw tries and also paces the program with 40 3-point baskets. Sanadze checks in with 12.2 ppg, Kramer 11.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg, while Christopher Anderson (11.1 ppg) is not above sacrificing his own scoring opportunities in order to deal a staggering 87 assists, against only 40 turnovers.
Shooting a mediocre 42.0 percent from the floor, the Lions were able to connect on 8-of-17 behind the 3-point line and 21-of-27 at the charity stripe in order to scoot by the visiting Cougars at Gersten Pavilion two days ago. Except for Alex Osborne who finished with eight points and a team-best eight rebounds, every starter scored in double figures for LMU as Evan Payne delivered a game-high 27 points, followed by Anthony Ireland with not only 14 points but also nine assists and three steals. Gabe Levin chipped in 12 points and C.J. Blackwell 11.
A starter in all but seven of the 113 games in which he has appeared for the Lions, Ireland is pouring in 18.8 ppg on the campaign, although his 28.1 percent effort beyond the arc is still somewhat of a concern. In addition to being a scoring machine, Ireland is also good for 5.5 apg and 3.9 rpg which makes him a threat in so many ways. Payne (15.1 ppg) has come off the bench in several games this season, but is still a crucial part of the Loyola offense.
Ireland is a force to be reckoned with this season, but the Lions will need several of his teammates to lend support in order to get the hosts over the hump in this meeting.
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