March 8, 2013
LAS VEGAS - The run in the 2013 West Coast Conference Men'sBasketball Championships for the LMU men's basketball continues, as theLions claimed their third straight win in as many nights, defeating No. 4seed Santa Clara, 60-58, on Friday night at Orleans Arena.
Junior Anthony Ireland's driving lay-up with six second remaining gavethe Lions a 59-58 lead. Brandon Clark was fouled on the next possessionfor the Santa Clara, but missed the front end of the one-on-one. Seniorwalk-on Taylor Walker grabbed the rebound and Ireland was fouled with twoseconds left.
Ireland missed the first but hit the second and Kevin Foster's half-courtshot was long.
"I have been in this business a long time and I really not sure what tosay," said Head Coach Max Good. "I am so proud of these guys and how hardthey have worked, not just in this tournament, but all season, no matterthe circumstance. We are not a pretty team, but we are very gritty and Iam so proud to be a part of this team."
The Lions improbable three-game winning streak, its longest of theseason, in the WCC tournament comes at the heels of their 14-game skid atthe end of the regular season. The Lions (11-22), who entered thetournament as the No. 9 seed, avenge a 15-point setback to the Broncos(21-11) just eight days earlier.
Prior to the WCC tournament changing its format in 2003, three straightwins would earn a team a trip to the NCAA tournament. For the Lions,their reward is a date with top-ranked Gonzaga in the semifinals onSaturday at 6 p.m. It will be the Lions first match-up against a No. 1since the Bill Russell days at San Francisco.
"This team really believes, and I have never been with a group as tightas they guys," said Good. "As soon as we walk out of here, our attentionis on a golden opportunity. I think any player in the country would lovethe chance to play a top-ranked team in a conference tournament."
The Lions were led by Ireland with 23 points, three rebounds, threeassists and seven steals, the most since Damian Martin set the programrecord of nine on Dec. 19, 2006. Ashley Hamilton added 13 points and ninerebounds while freshman Nick Stover came off the bench had 11, his mostsince the season opener.
Foster led the Broncos with 23 points with five rebounds. Marc Trasolini,who had 26 eight days ago, was held to 10 points as no other Bronco haddouble figures.
LMU held Santa Clara, who hit 51 percent last week, to 39.6 percentshooting from the field. The Lions hit 41.4 percent. LMU out-reboundedthe Lions 37-31 as Alex Osborne tied a career-high with 11.
"We continue to get solid play from everyone that enters the game," saidGood. "Walker's rebound at the end was key. I really got on Ashley at onepoint in the game and he responded big. And Anthony, what can you sayabout Anthony."
The Lions closed the first half on a 16-6 run to erase a 10-point deficitas the game was tied at 34-34 at the break.
Santa Clara would go up six on a 7-0 run in the second half on jumper byFoster with 11:15 to play. The lead would never go larger than six andtrailing 53-48, the Lions went on a 9-0 run, capped by a pair of Irelandfee throws with 2:39 to play giving the Lions a 57-53 lead.
The Broncos and Foster would not go away as he scored five straightpoints, including a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left to take aone-point lead to set-up the final seconds and Ireland's winner.