Loyola Marymount beats No. 21 Saint Mary's 75-60
MORAGA, Calif. (AP) Loyola Marymount's biggest road win this season put the Lions right in the thick of the West Coast Conference.
Anthony Ireland wants his teammates looking even farther down the road.
Drew Viney scored 17 points, Ireland had 16 and Loyola Marymount bounced back from one of its most lopsided losses of the season to beat No. 21 Saint Mary's 75-60 on Wednesday night.
Jarred Dubois added 15 points and Ashley Hamilton had 11 for the Lions (17-10, 10-4 WCC), who silenced a capacity crowd at McKeon Pavilion with a stellar performance on both ends of the court.
The 10 conference wins are the most by Loyola Marymount since the 1989-90 Bo Kimble-led Lions made it to the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.
Ireland, who spent a long stretch in the second half on the bench in foul trouble, thinks this year's Loyola Marymount team can get back to the tournament.
"Our goal is to get in the tournament," Ireland said. "We feel like we're good enough so why not dream big?"
Saint Mary's still has big postseason dreams but they took a definite hit with the Gaels' first home loss in 17 games this season.
"We're disappointed we lost but LMU is a good team," Saint Mary's point guard Matthew Dellavedova said. "Our defense wasn't very good. We need to improve that and just pay attention to the little things. If we can improve that, we'll be OK."
The game was reminiscent of the Gaels' late-season conference loss to unranked San Diego a year ago, which prevented Saint Mary's from clinching the outright conference title.
Some also believe it was the pivotal factor in the Gaels not receiving an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament, something that has to weigh on coach Randy Bennett's mind with only three games left on the schedule.
Loyola Marymount, on the other hand, is riding high only less than a week after losing to No. 24 Gonzaga by 19 points.
"We've got a statement about turning the page and I'm the worst in the world at doing that," said Lions coach Max Good, whose team is in the midst of a four-game run in nine days. "I could not believe when I looked up and saw we were up by 13, 14. It was surreal, like it was a dream."
The Lions snapped their 11-game losing streak to Saint Mary's with an aggressive, effective defense that kept the Gaels from getting any kind of interior game going and an offense that repeatedly scored off offensive rebounds to keep the overflow crowd silent.
Rob Jones had 25 points and 15 rebounds for Saint Mary's, which shot just 6 of 28 from 3-point range, including 1 of 13 in the second half.
The first-place Gaels (23-4, 12-2) saw their lead over Gonzaga trimmed to one game and lost starting guard Stephen Holt to a right knee injury in the first half.
"We're in a conference race, I know that, but I'd just like to be able to finish strong and get our guys back healthy," Bennett said.
It was a rough night all around for Bennett's squad.
Holt left the game and needed to use crutches after the game while Dellavedova rolled his ankle and was limping noticeably.
Ireland got the Lions going early but it was Viney, the team's leading scorer, and Hamilton who came up big in the second half. Viney made a 3-pointer to give Loyola Marymount a 52-42 lead with 9:24 left then later put an emphatic stamp on the win with a soaring one-handed dunk from the baseline while Hamilton scored six points in the final 5 1-2 minutes.
That helped the Lions improve to 9-3 on the road this season, a big accomplishment for a team that has been beset by injuries to several key players this season.
Even when Ireland went to the bench because of foul trouble late in the second half, Loyola Marymount didn't flinch.
Saint Mary's could have clinched an automatic spot in the semifinals of the conference tournament by beating Loyola Marymount. Instead it was the Lions who improved their postseason outlook while trimming the Gaels' lead in the WCC to one game over Gonzaga.
The Gaels missed five of their first six shots but came back to take a 13-11 lead on Jones' 3-pointer with 12:25 left that had the standing room only crowd at McKeon Pavilion roaring.
Officials called a timeout to review Jones' shot and the brief delay seemed to bother Saint Mary's, which fell back into its offensive funk over the next 6 minutes.
Loyola Marymount, which hadn't beaten the Gaels since the semifinals of the WCC tournament in 2006, scored the next 10 points and went ahead 30-20 on Ashley Hamilton's free throw.
The conference leader in steals, Holt limped off the court shortly after getting caught in a pile while scrambling for a loose ball and spent the second half on the end of the bench with his right knee wrapped in a thick bag of ice.
Without one of its top defenders and the team's third-leading scorer, Saint Mary's struggled to find any consistency on either end of the court.
The Gaels made two brief runs in the second half but couldn't get closer than five points.
Updated February 16, 2012