GAME NOTES: The Lions of Loyola Marymount try to avoid back-to-back defeats as they clash with the UC Riverside Highlanders in non-conference play tonight.
LMU, which has played six of seven games thus far away from home, has returned from the Virgin Islands Paradise Classic following two defeats in three tries. The squad started off the event with a 90-81 loss to Northern Iowa, and more recently suffered a 77-68 loss to Vanderbilt a week ago. In between, the Lions slipped by Marist for a 76-70 victory.
As for the Highlanders, they are back home after traveling to the states of Utah and Washington where they topped Southern Utah on Nov. 23 by a final of 74-59, before bowing to Seattle University two days later, 69-68. The defeat snapped a brief two-game win streak for the program.
The Highlanders lead the all-time series by a count of 4-2.
The Lions went from shooting just 32.4 percent from the floor in the first half against Vanderbilt to 50.0 percent over the final 20 minutes of action, but at the same time the Commodores knocked down 60 percent from the field and 17-of-21 at the free-throw line in order to take down LMU. The Lions were paced by Anthony Ireland who tallied 20 points, followed by Ben Dickinson and Gabe Levin with 10 points apiece for a squad that ended up just 4-of-18 beyond the arc.
Despite shooting only 28.1 percent from 3-point distance, Ireland is still the leading scorer for the Lions by a long shot with 19.3 ppg. He has made good on 42-of-48 (.875) at the free-throw line and is responsible for 38 of the unit's 90 assists, so his poor accuracy out on the perimeter can be somewhat overlooked. Levin (12.7 ppg), Evan Payne (12.4 ppg) and Dickinson (11.6 ppg) are driving the team to a strong 80.7 ppg, but at the same time the defense is giving up 78.9 ppg.
At Seattle, the Highlanders fell behind 10-0 right out of the chute, but a 24-7 run for the visitors actually pushed them ahead midway through the first half before falling back behind by four points at the break. With five minutes remaining in regulation the meeting was tied 61-61, but from there UCR fell behind again and never fully recovered. Steven Thornton scored a team-best 18 points, hitting 4-of-9 behind the 3-point line, followed by Chris Patton and Sam Finley with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Even though he failed to score in double figures the last time out, Taylor Johns still sits atop the scoring list for the Highlanders overall with his 14.8 ppg, shooting better from the floor (.596) than he is at the charity stripe (.529). Patton and Thornton check in with 11.4 and 11.2 ppg, respectively, for a program that is generating just 64.2 ppg while shooting a mere 27.5 percent out on the perimeter and 61.5 percent at the line.
As long as the Highlanders continue to have their issues at the free-throw line where points are up for grabs, the team will have trouble competing even against foes such as LMU.
Game Date and Time