GAME NOTES: The Loyola Marymount Lions wrap up a three-game road trip on Saturday afternoon, as they head to Firestone Fieldhouse for a West Coast Conference bout with the Pepperdine Waves.
Loyola got off to a great start this season at 10-4 overall and 2-0 in the WCC before spiraling out of control with losses in seven of its last eight games. The Lions most recently fell on the wrong end of an 89-61 blowout at Saint Mary's last Saturday to slip to 3-7 on the road.
Pepperdine has not been as ice-cold as Loyola, but it is still trending in the wrong direction with five losses in its last seven games, including back-to- back defeats at the hands of Saint Mary's (80-74) and Pacific (76-66). Despite their recent struggles, the Waves are still a solid 12-10 overall this season, including 5-5 in the WCC and 6-3 on their home floor.
The Waves hold a 93-65 advantage in the all-time series with their intrastate rival, including a 52-50 win in the latest meeting on Feb. 14, 2013 at Firestone Fieldhouse.
The Lions found themselves down by 20 at Saint Mary's less than 12 minutes into their most recent contest and were never competitive in the embarrassing 28-point setback, shooting just 39.3 percent from the field while committing 19 turnovers. Gabe Levin and Anthony Ireland were stellar in spite of defeat with 17 points apiece, but no one else managed to score more than nine points.
It was a rare offensive performance for Loyola, which shoots 44.6 percent from the field and 76.2 percent at the free-throw line for 75.9 ppg, but it has had major issues stopping opposing teams on the other end of the floor, as it sports a porous scoring defense (78.0 ppg). Ireland is one of the WCC's best playmaking guards, posting 18.6 ppg and 5.6 apg while adding nearly two steals per contest for good measure. Evan Payne (14.6 ppg) has drained a team-best 27 3-pointers, while Levin is a steady presence in the paint with 10.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 1.2 bpg.
The Waves appeared to grab control of their latest game by surging ahead by seven early in the second half, but they fell victim to a 22-5 Pacific run and could never recover from there on their way to the 10-point loss. They were outshot from the field, 56 percent to 42.1 percent, and made only 4-of-17 long-range attempts. Stacy Davis tallied 12 points and eight rebounds in the defeat, Malcolm Brooks also scored 12 and Amadi Udenyi netted 11.
On the season, Pepperdine shoots an impressive 46.3 percent from the field, much better than its opponents (.438), but it still boasts just a +0.3 scoring margin, thanks partially to its ongoing turnover problem (-2.1 takeaway margin). The team's strength comes in the frontcourt, where both Davis (14.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Brendan Lane (13.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are in the midst of stellar campaigns. Lane shoots nearly 57 percent from the field, while Davis has been active and effective at the foul line (94-of-127, .740). Jeremy Major (10.8 ppg, 4.1 apg) and Brooks (9.9 ppg) have been solid in the backcourt.
Pepperdine's struggles of late have been nowhere near as bad as Loyola's, meaning the Waves should be able to get back on the winning track at home in this one.
Game Date and Time