GAME NOTES: The two teams buried at the bottom of the West Coast Conference standings get together tonight, as the Pacific Tigers host the Lions of Loyola Marymount at the Spanos Center.
The Tigers, who have come over from the Big West Conference, are all by themselves in last place in the WCC with just a single win in six tries, that lone victory being an 80-68 final over Santa Clara 12 days ago. Over the weekend, Pacific came up short at Saint Mary's by a score of 79-73, the sixth loss in eight games for the program.
As for the Lions, while they are slightly ahead of Pacific in the standings at the moment, the team is still spinning out of control on a six-game slide overall. Last Saturday, the squad was tripped up by Gonzaga at home by a score of 82-72. At this point, the last win for LMU was a 65-62 triumph versus San Diego on Dec. 30.
The series between these two teams is currently knotted at 24-24, with Pacific winning the most recent meeting back in 2010 by a score of 86-76, as part of the CIT.
Evan Payne scored 19 points, leading four players in double figures for the Lions, but he also turned the ball over five times without the benefit of a single assists in the double-digit setback at home. CJ Blackwell and Anthony Ireland both dropped in 13 points, the latter posting nine assists in order to offset a disappointing 5-of-15 shooting from the floor, while Nick Stover tacked on 10 points for a team that allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 53.2 percent from the field.
Ireland has watched his scoring average wane as the season has worn on, but still he is putting up a solid 18.4 ppg, not to mention handing out 111 assists. However, his 3-point accuracy (.280) is still a concern because it has taken the entire team down to only 28.1 percent, compared to 36.0 percent for the competition.
In a game that was filled with a staggering 60 personal fouls, Pacific ended up a solid 22-of-28 at the free-throw line, but still that wasn't good enough as the Gaels knocked down 31-of-43 at the charity stripe in the six-point decision at McKeon Pavilion. Tony Gill came off the bench to tally 16 points for Pacific, followed by Trevin Harris, Sama Taku and Andrew Bock with 11 points apiece, while Ross Rivera pitched in with 10.
Bock leads the Tigers in scoring for the time being with his 12.2 ppg, but hot on his tail is Taku who is responsible for 12.1 ppg, although the latter us shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor and 18.9 percent out on the perimeter through 17 games. As a group, the Tigers are converting 35.3 percent from 3-point range, attempting an average of almost 17 shots per contest from the outside.
As long as Ireland can convert his numerous shot attempts at a much better rate this time around, and his teammates can bring ample support, it doesn't feel like a stretch to predict the Lions as the victors tonight.
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