Las Vegas, NV– The opening WCC Men’s Basketball Tournament game finished in true March Madness form with two opening round upsets. First, #10-seed Loyola Marymount pulled off a 67-64 win over #7-seed Portland.
Thursday night’s match-up was a battle of runs. The Pilots struck first by opening up with a 9-2 run in the first four minute stretch of the game. And by the second media timeout in the first half, the Pilots had a 17-7 edge over the Lions and looked to be in complete control. However, LMU had a secret weapon on the night that consisted of a full-court man-to-man press that brought back memories of the Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble lead LMU teams of the early 1990’s. The Lions proceeded to finish out the first half by outscoring the Pilots 24-13 and went in to half-time with 31-30 lead.
The second half featured some deja vu by starting out with Portland opening up with 18-4 run and again appeared to be in control of the game with a 48-35 lead with just 11:59 left to go. The Lions went to back their full-court man pressure and over the next seven minutes went on a 20-7 run to take a one point lead at 56-55 with five minutes left in the game.
The game went back and forth with four different lead changes in the final minutes, but the Pilots had three costly unforced turnovers during that stretch which allowed LMU to build a four point lead with 13 seconds remaining. The Pilots cut the lead to two with seven seconds left on 6’11 junior center Thomas van der Mars’ tip in. They still had a chance to tie the game with three seconds left after LMU senior PG Anthony Ireland went 1-of-2 from the foul-line. However, senior forward Ryan Nicholas’s 37-foot shot missed at the buzzer.
LMU was led in scoring by freshman combo guard Evan Payne’s 19 points and followed by 14 points from Anthony Ireland and sophomore forward Nick Stover.
Portland received very strong efforts from Thomas van der Mars (18 points, 10 rebounds) to go along with junior guard Bobby Sharp (18 points) and Ryan Nicholas (13 points, 11 rebounds). Portland was hindered when leading scorer Kevin Bailey (16.5 ppg) was unable to play due to a calf injury.
LMU now 13-18 on the season, moves on to face #2 seed BYU in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Portland finishes their season with 15-16 overall record.
Brownridge had a hot night shooting, going 4-of-8 from 3-point range, which included one shot that capped a 15-6 run and blew the game wide open for Santa Clara (14-18), giving them a 49-37 lead with 14:20 left to play in the game.
The Broncos just kept growing their lead over Pacific (15-15), with their biggest lead at 70-49. Senior back-up guard Evan Roquemore showed that he wanted his career to continue by dropping 17 points that went well with junior guard Brandon Clark’s 15. Freshman back-up forward Nate Kratch was another sniper for the Broncos when he made all three of his 3-point attempts in the second half that propelled Santa Clara’s three-point shooting percentage to 41.7 (10-of-24).
Pacific was led by senior guard Sama Taku (16 points). Pacific struggled shooting with 4-of-18 from three-point range and was crushed on the boards 37-28.
The Broncos will face top-seed and perennial WCC power Gonzaga (25-6) on Saturday.
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