Nov. 18, 2007
Albuquerque, NM - Looks can be deceiving and Loyola Marymount's 86-58 setback to host New Mexico in the final game of the BTI Invitaitonal was just that. Playing in front of the largest and most hostile crowd of the non-conference season at The Pit in Albuquerque, NM, the Lions and their youthful roster showed maturity beyond their years as they gave host New Mexico all they can handle.
However, the Lions struggled at the free throw line and the Lobos got hot from long range late to defeat the Lions in a game much closer than the final score.
"I was very pleased with our effort tonight," said Head Coach Rodney Tention. "We went out with a purpose and that was to win. We came out very aggressive but had moments were we lapsed. New Mexico is a good team and took advantage of that. We are still learning but this weekend we got a lot better."
LMU was led by senior Jon Ziri with his first career double-double. He had career-highs in points with 19 and in rebounds with 10. He finished the three games averaging 7.2 rebounds. Freshman Orlando Johnson continued his hot play with 17 points. He had 23 against Presbyterian and his play on the weekend earned him All-Tournament team honors.
The Lions came out swinging to start both halves, taking a 9-4 lead with 11:44 to play on a steal and break-away dunk by Ziri in the first half. The Lions then cut a 16-point halftime deficit to seven, 52-45, on a three-pointer by Ziri with 12:16 remaining.
However, LMU could have been much closer as they had missed 10 free throws when they cut the lead to seven and finished the game just 5-for-18 from the charity stripe compared to 19-for-28 by the Lobos.
"The missed free throws proved to be the ball game. We hit those and then it is a one possession game or we have the lead and then the mentality is completely different for both teams," said Tention. "It is the part of the game where a player can be selfish. I can get free points for me and for my team. By missing those free ones, we did not give ourselves a chance to win."
After Ziri cut the lead to just seven, New Mexico went on to outscore the Lions 34-13 the rest of the half. The run was paced by their hot shooting from long range as they went 13-for-26 from the three point line and finished hitting 45 percent from the field. The Lions hit 37 percent as they had more attempts than the Lobos and just four fewer made field goals.
The Lions fall to 1-4 while New Mexico remains perfect at 5-0. The Lions, who emptied their bench with more than three minutes to play, scored the most points of the season against the Lobos, forcing them into a season-high 19 turnovers.
LMU will continue their four-game stretch away from home when they travel to Macon, Georgia, to face Mercer on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 11 a.m. (PT) The game can be heard on LMULions.com or on KXLU 88.9 FM.