Loyola Marymount (12-18) vs. Portland (15-15)
GAME NOTES: First-round action in the West Coast Conference Tournament kicks off with a matchup between 10th-seeded Loyola Marymount and seventh-seeded Portland at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The winner of this first-round clash will move on to battle second-seeded BYU on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
Loyola Marymount backed its way into the conference tournament, losing eight of the team's last nine games to end the regular season. The Lions were defeated, 65-61, by San Francisco on Saturday in the finale. Loyola Marymount finished with a conference-worst 4-14 record in the WCC.
Portland is in a similar position as Loyola, having lost its last four games of the year entering the postseason. Portland was taken down by Pacific, 68-65, in a tough season-ending defeat. The Pilots finished the season at 7-11 in conference play.
Loyola Marymount has the slimmest of leads against Portland in the all-time series, 46-45. The Pilots swept both meetings during the season to close the gap.
It was a tough contest for the Lions as they closed the regular season against a hot San Francisco squad. A Loyola Marymount 3-pointer with two seconds left to play was long, and the Dons held on for the victory. C.J. Blackwell, Evan Payne and Anthony Ireland all netted 13 points to pace the Lions, while Ireland added six assists to his stat line. Nick Stover chipped in 10 points, and Alex Osborne grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in the loss. The Lions shot 42.9 percent from the floor in the contest.
LMU sported a conference-worst scoring defense, allowing 77.3 ppg to opponents, and had a -3.8 ppg scoring margin. Ireland was the lone bright spot for the Lions, averaging a team-best and second-in-conference 18.7 ppg with a team-high 161 assists on the year. Payne chipped in 15.4 ppg, and Gabe Levin added 11.1 ppg. Levin's 7 rpg was a team-best in the category, and his 30 blocked shots on the year was second only to Marin Mornar's 35. The Lions scored an average of 73.5 ppg through 30 games played.
Portland led Pacific for almost the entirety of the second half in Saturday's conference showdown, but the Tigers' Andrew Bock broke a full-court press and got to the free-throw line, hitting both attempts with 2.9 seconds to play to take the permanent lead. Bryce Pressley scored a team-high 19 points for Portland, adding four assists to his stat line. Thomas van der Mars scored 17 points with seven rebounds, and Ryan Nicholas rounded out the double-digit Pilots scorers with 10 points.
Nicholas topped the team and the West Coast Conference in rebounding during the season at 8.7 rpg, while van der Mars added an eighth-best 7.1 rpg mark in the league (second on Portland). Kevin Bailey notched 16.5 ppg to lead the Pilots, while van der Mars chipped in 13.3 ppg and Nicholas scored 12.9 ppg. Van der Mars netted a team-high 60.9 percent of his field-goal attempts this season, which was second in the conference standings. Bailey is listed as questionable to play with a strained calf.
Both teams hit a road block toward the end of the season, and have limped into the conference tournament. But Loyola Marymount was a disaster against WCC opposition, and Portland was able to get the better of the Lions twice on the year. The Pilots should cap off the three-game series sweep Thursday with a win and advance to face BYU.
GAME NOTES: First-round action in the West Coast Conference Tournament kicks
off with a matchup between 10th-seeded Loyola Marymount and seventh-seeded
Portland at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television:
BYUtv. Home Record: Loyola Marymount 6-6, Portland 10-6. Away Record: Loyola
Marymount 3-10, Portland 3-9. Neutral Record: Loyola Marymount 3-2, Portland
2-0. Conference Record: Loyola Marymount 4-14, Portland 7-11. Series Record:
Loyola Marymount leads, 46-45.Game Date and Time
Thursday, March 6, 9 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Portland 76, Loyola Marymount 65