LOS ANGELES, CA-Out of the 10 teams that make up the West Coast Conference, Loyola Marymount University’s men’s basketball team currently resides in the eighth seat. But that didn’t stop the Lions from getting under the skin of No. 3 Gonzaga in a home game played at Gersten Pavilion on Valentine’s Day.
Yeah, this was not the day that Loyola Marymount needed to cuddle up and be sweet to the Bulldogs. In January, Loyola Marymount absorbed an 18-point whipping from Gonzaga on a road trip. The Lions, at least through the first 30 minutes of action, was determined not to let that kind of beatdown take place on their home floor in the two team’s second encounter.
Loyola Marymount (17-10) played Gonzaga (25-2) in the first half like they were not impressed with the Bulldogs’ national ranking, playing their West Coast Conference rivals nearly even, trailing by just a single point at halftime. But late in the second half, the light switch came on for the Bulldogs and they went on to race past the Lions for a 73-60 win.
For Gonzaga, the victory was just another notch towards the Lions securing a possible high seeding in the NCAA Tournament. February, so far, has not been too kind for Loyola Marymount. The loss to Gonzaga combined the Lions dropping a Saturday afternoon contest to BYU, means that Loyola Marymount has dropped four of its last five games, all in the month of February.
So out of those last two defeats, which one speaks more to what kind of Loyola Marymount team will show up in the conference tournament? At 17-10, Loyola Marymount has already secured an overall winning season. But conference play has been somewhat of a sore thumb for the Lions. Double defeats to San Diego, Gonzaga, and BYU won’t help Loyola Marymount get into the NCAA Tournament.
What the Lions have to do to now from this point moving forward is win out. That includes winning the last couple of regular season games and sweeping every team that is in front of them during the West Coast Conference Championships, including the Big, Bad, Wolf-Gonzaga. That would be a tall task to order, but anything is possible once the ball is rolled out onto the basketball court.
Besting the Bulldogs in the conference tournament would be a stretch for any team. That’s because Gonzaga is a team that could very well make it all the way to the Final Four. Yeah, they’re that good. When you take in account the Bulldogs beat No. 2 Duke and barely lost to top-ranked Tennessee (76-73) early in the season, Gonzaga is the real deal.
In their defeat to Gonzaga, the cat that went out of the bag was the off shooting on this particular night by Jason Bateman (6 of 18 field goal attempts) and Dameane Douglas (5 of 13 field goal attempts). Bateman finished the game with 12 points, while Douglas scored a team-high 13 points in the defeat.
The good news for Loyola Marymount is that the Lions have only three more games left to play in the regular season before conference tourney play begins.