Jan. 7, 2005
Los Angeles, CA (Jan. 7) - After more than 11,000 miles and three weeks on the road, the Loyola Marymount University men's basketball team was glad to back home as they earned a 68-65 win over San Francisco to begin West Coast Conference play Friday night at Gersten Pavilion.
"It is great to open conference play with a win against a very good San Francisco team," said Head Coach Steve Aggers. "San Francisco is hard to guard and I am proud of team effort tonight." The Lions improve to 9-5 on the season and 1-0 in the WCC as they snap a 12-game skid to the Dons. USF falls to 9-5, 0-1.
The Lions featured a balanced attack, getting contribution throughout the roster with eight players earning five or more points. Sophomore Matthew Knight led the Lions with 12 and junior John Haywood had his best offensive game of the season with 11. Junior Dustin Brown helped the Lions to a plus-four edge on the boards (38-34), grabbing a career high 11. While the Lions used a balanced attack, USF relied on a two-headed attack from Tyrone Riley and John Cox as they combined for 46 of the 65 points.
"Riley and Cox really hurt us in the first half with 15 points each," said Aggers. "But Damian Martin and Wes Wardrop really did a great job on Cox in the second half. We were pretty road weary and our defense was far better tonight. We aren't quite were we need to be, but we played with great energy tonight."
The teams traded leads throughout the second half as the game featured 19 lead changes and eight ties. Following the final media timeout the teams were deadlocked at 61. Jason Carter gave the Dons the lead when he hit one of two free throws to make it 62-61 Dons with 2:45 remaining. Cox then game the Dons a 64-61 lead with 2:04 remaining on a lay-in.
LMU's defense clamped down, as the Dons would be held without a field goal the rest of the way. Knight drained a pair of free throws with 1:46 remaining to make it 64-63. After a scramble for a loose ball, Cox got his hands on it and hit just one of two free throws to make it 65-63 with a 1:13 remaining.
On the next trip, senior Charles Brown gave the Lions a 66-65 lead on a three ball with 1:04 remaining. "Charles did what senior leaders are supposed to do," said Aggers. "He did what he has done for us before, hit a big shot when we needed it."
LMU turned to its defense as Wardrop drew an offensive foul on Cox to give LMU the ball. The Lions could not come up with any points to set-up the final 16.6 seconds. On USF's next possession, Cox passed ball to Andre Hazel, who drove the baseline. Knight came up big with a blocked shot. Wardrop picked up the loose ball and was fouled. He hit both free throws to for the final margin.
"Wes made a great defensive play on Cox and his charge was big for us," said Aggers. "He made a great play and them Matty made a great play on Hazel to get the block. I am proud of how we managed the clock down the stretch. Following the defensive stop, Wes came back and made to big free throws."
The Lions finished the game shooting 16-for-18 (88.9 percent) from the charity stripe while USF went 16-for-25 (64.0 percent). The Lions defense held USF to just 36.8 percent shooting. Cox and Riley combined to hit 14-for-29 while the rest of the team went just 7-for-28 (25 percent). LMU went 24-for-52 from the field (46.2 percent).
"It is great to start 1-0," said Aggers. "To hold an offense like USF's to just 36 percent from the field is impressive. I am proud of effort defensively. I was a little disappointed in our turnovers, but we will get better." The Lions finished with 19 turnovers, 13 coming in the first half. USF had 15.
The Lions will close the two-game homestand when they take on San Diego at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Net West and all proceeds from the game will go to the Tsunami Relief Fund.
- GO LIONS -
John Haywood had a season-high 11 points in the Lions' win Friday.