GAME NOTES: The Portland Pilots will play their final two home games of the season this week, beginning with a matchup versus the Loyola Marymount Lions on Thursday night in West Coast Conference action at the Chiles Center.
It's been a forgettable campaign for LMU, as it has gone just 11-14 overall, including 3-10 in the WCC. The Lions have been especially futile in recent weeks with losses in four straight and 10 of their last 11, most recently dropping an 82-72 decision at Pacific last Saturday.
Portland sports a solid 13-11 record overall this season, but it has been less than stellar in league action with more losses than wins (5-7). The Pilots have lost three of their past four, including at Gonzaga on Feb. 5 in a hard- fought 71-66 setback, but they have performed well at the Chiles Center with eight wins in 14 tries.
The Pilots bested the Lions back on Jan. 16 in Los Angeles, 71-57, although LMU still leads the all-time series by a 46-44 count.
The Lions trailed by nine at the half of their most recent game and never threatened the lead for the rest of the contest, as they were outshot from the field, 50 percent to 45.5 percent, and outscored at the free-throw line, 21-13, in the 10-point setback. Evan Payne was impressive with 18 points on 6- of-9 from the field, but he also committed seven of the team's 13 turnovers. Anthony Ireland poured in 17 points, Gabe Levin added 15 points and six assists and CJ Blackwell came off the bench to score 12 points.
Offensively, LMU has impressed this season, shooting 44.5 percent from the field for 74.7 ppg, but it has been hindered by one of the nation's worst scoring defense, as it allows 78.2 ppg. Anthony Ireland is the catalyst with 18.5 ppg, 5.4 apg and 1.7 spg, although his field goal percentage is less than desirable (.409). Payne is strong second option with 14.8 ppg, while Levin mans the paint with 11.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg and more than a block per outing.
The Pilots trailed first-place Gonzaga by 16 early in the second half before piecing together a furious rally to take a four-point lead with under six minutes to play. However, the Zags responded with a 14-4 run of their own to regain control. They shot a modest 42.9 percent from the field and committed 33 personal fouls, which allowed Gonzaga to shoot 22-of-32 from the free-throw line. Ryan Nicholas was outstanding in the frontcourt with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Kevin Bailey and Bryce Pressley put up 13 and 11 points, respectively, and Alec Wintering handed out seven assists.
Much like LMU, Portland also boasts an impressive offensive attack, shooting 45.7 percent from the field for 77.5 ppg, but unlike the Lions, it is able to outpace its opponents (73.0 ppg). Bailey leads the way with 16.5 ppg and has knocked down 31 3-pointers at a 41.9 percent clip. Thomas Van Der Mars shoots 60 percent from the field on his way to 12.6 ppg, Nicholas (12.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is a nightly double-double threat and Pressley (8.3 ppg) and Wintering (8.0 ppg) combine to dish out 7.7 apg.
LMU's prolonged struggles show no sign of coming to an end in this matchup against a Pilots squad that has played well on its home floor.
Game Date and Time