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WCC Men's Basketball Recaps

Dec. 22, 2006

Portland - 61
Montana - 58

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland senior Darren Cooper refused to allow the Pilots to lose Friday night at the Chiles Center. In his third game back since a month layoff due to injury, Cooper erupted for a season-high 23 points, including the final seven points of regulation, to lead Portland to a 61-58 win over the Montana Grizzlies in front of 1,380 fans.

The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Pilots (3-11), while the Grizzlies (6-7) lost for the second game in a row.

Cooper, Portland's leading returning scorer from last season, missed nine games with a strained hamstring and sore knee, but scored 11 of the team's final 15 points in regulation and assisted on the Pilots' other two baskets in the final 6:30, capping an emotional second half comeback.

"Coop's been around a while and we needed his experience and leadership tonight," said Portland senior forward Chris Jackson, who established a career-high for the second straight game with 11 points.

"He looked like Santa Claus out there tonight," Portland head coach Eric Reveno joked in the post-game press conference. "He should have been wearing a beard and hat."

Since returning to the lineup, Cooper has reached double figures all three games, averaging 16.7 points in those contests. He finished the game 5-for-8 from the field, 4-for-5 on threes and 9-for-11 from the foul line. Cooper added five rebounds, four assists, two steals and also blocked a three-pointer at the buzzer by Montana's Matt Martin, which would have tied the game.

"I think how we played at Notre Dame (on Tuesday) was a big boost to our confidence," Cooper said. "I wanted to be a leader out there tonight and take it upon myself to make some plays down the stretch. My teammates did an excellent job of finding me in good spots. It was just a great team effort and good Christmas present for us and the Pilot fans."

Trailing 49-45 with 6:59 remaining, Cooper drained a three-pointer and then grabbed a defensive rebound and found teammate Sherrard Watson for an easy fast break jumper to tie the game. He followed with three free throws to tie the game and then found Jackson in the paint for an easy layup and a 54-53 lead with 3:46 left. After Martin gave the Grizzlies a lead with a layin, Cooper answered with a clutch trey with 1:16 remaining and iced the game by draining five free throws in the closing seconds.

Cooper was quick to credit his teammates and coaches for the team's increased intensity and rejuvenated attitude. "Our coaches bring an unbelievable work ethic and intensity to everything they do and I think that has rubbed off on us as players. We feed off of their energy and commitment. They never quit on us and they have put the tools in front of us to be successful and today it all came together."

Montana junior forward Andrew Strait had 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead the Grizzlies. Strait scored UM's first 11 points and carried the Grizzlies to a 32-31 halftime lead. UM led by as much as six points in the second half, before the Pilots seized control.

"As a coach, I try to focus on how we play as opposed to the result, but after taking loss after loss it starts to weigh on you and it feels like a punch to the stomach. I thought we made great strides last Tuesday (at Notre Dame) and it was nice to see that carry over into a win tonight."

The Pilots committed 20 turnovers which led to a 20-12 edge for the Grizzlies in points off turnovers. Portland owned a 30-21 edge on the boards and 17-6 advantage in second chance points. UP shot 48 percent from the field to UM's 45 percent.

"This was a good team win," Reveno said. "The guys will get a few days off for the Holidays and then we'll get ready for a tough Oregon team."

The Pilots will travel to Eugene for a game against the No. 21 Oregon Ducks on Thursday, Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. Portland will then host Lewis and Clark at the Chiles Center on Dec. 31 at 2 p.m.

San Diego - 81
UCSB - 63

San Diego, CA - The USD Toreros (9-4) continued their winning streak with an impressive 81-63 home win over the visiting UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (8-3). It was the team's 7th straight win while UCSB suffered their first road loss in six tries. Gyno Pomare and Ross DeRogatis shared game-high scoring honors with 19 points each, and Brandon Johnson turned in a solid all-around game with 13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Chris Lewis chipped in with 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Nir Cohen came back from missing the last 10 games with a broken left hand, to total 10 points and dish out 4 assists. After Christmas USD will try to end the month of December on a perfect note as they travel to Fresno State for a Dec. 30th contest at 7 pm.

"I told our guys all week that this was a statement game," said head coach Brad Holland. "They responded with an outstanding effort, especially on the defensive end. UC Santa Barbara came here with a 5-0 road record and are the favorite to win the Big West. This is a big win for us."

In the first half the game was close throughout with both sides holding 3 point leads through the first 18 minutes. A Nir Cohen three-pointer with 1:21 left gave USD a 32-26 advantage, and he added one more trey with three ticks left to give the Toreros a 35-28 halftime lead. For USD in the first half, Gyno Pomare scored 13 points in 15 minutes, and Cohen sparked the team with 6 points in 7 minutes of action.

In the 2nd half the Toreros were paced by Ross DeRogatis who bombed in 15 of his 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting beyond the three-point arc. Controlling the tempo of the game, and playing some excellent defense, was Brandon Johnson. UCSB guard Alex Harris, who came into the game averaging 22 points, was held to 10 points. Forward Chris Devine led the Gauchos with 12 points. For the game USD outrebounded UCSB, 38-30, and finished with 19 assists and 8 steals.

Long Beach State - 66
LMU - 65

Los Angeles, CA - Forgive the Loyola Marymount University men's basketball coaching staff if the holiday season isn't too festive as the Lions saw a little of everything on the week - most of it going against the Lions. It continued on Friday night as Aaron Nixon's three-pointer from 35 feet at the buzzer hit nothing but net to give Long Beach State a 66-65 win over the Lions at Gersten Pavilion.

The Lions took a 65-63 lead with 2.5 seconds remaining on a jumper from Derick Grubb. The Lions erased an 11-point deficit to take the lead. After the ball was tipped out of bounds at mid-court, Nixon threw the inbound pass, got it right back and threw up a shot from near half court that was the winner.

"I feel good that we competed when we could have easily folded," said Head Coach Rodney Tention. "They made a great play at the end."

LMU falls to 8-6 on the season and Long Beach State improves to 7-4.

The comeback for the Lions came under tough conditions. The week started for the Lions with the loss of the West Coast Conference's second leading scorer in Brandon Worthy, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. At the start of the second half the Lions saw senior Matthew Knight, the fifth leading scorer in the WCC, go down with a strained left knee cap. In addition, junior Jon Ziri, who averages more than 25 minutes per game, has also missed the last two games with a concussion.

With more than 38 points and 16 rebounds sitting out with injury, head coach Rodney Tention called for the rest of the team to pick-up the slack. And they did.

"I have never been a part of team that lost their two best players in back-to-back games," said Tention. "I told the guys it was an opportunity to step up. These guys play hard and never stop. We are good enough to win games with anyone we put out on the court. We have to fid a way to get it done."

Senior Adoyah Miller scored 20 points with six rebounds for the Lions, playing a career high 38 minutes. Junior Damian Martin added 10 points and eight rebounds. Knight left the game with 10 points and nine rebounds. Grubb added nine points and six rebounds, while senior John Montgomery, who earned his first start, scored six points with six rebounds and four assists.

The Lions trailed 57-46 with 9:26 remaining. The Lions would go on a 15-4 run over the next nine six minutes to cut it to 61-59 on a pair of free throws by Adoyah Miller. After a field goal by Long Beach State, Miller hit two more free throws and then Martin hit a jumper to tie the game at 63-63 with 51 seconds remainig.

After a defensive stop by the Lions and a timeout, the Lions set-up a play to work it inside. Martin delivered a perfect pass to Grubb who drained the jumper to give the Lions the brief lead to set-up Nixon's winner.

The Lions will head back to the road as they take on Akron on Dec. 28 at 5:00 p.m.

Wyoming - 84
San Francisco - 81 (OT)

Honolulu, HI -The USF Dons erased a 17 point second deficit to take the lead in the second half, but watched Wyoming score the last four points in overtime to edge USF 84-81 in the consolation round of the Rainbow Classic Friday morning in Honolulu. USF will play Valparaiso in the seventh place game Saturday.

The Dons trailed 51-34 with 17:23 left in the second half but went on a 25-8 run to tie the score at 59 with 7:46 remaining. The lead went back and forth before heading into the extra session.

USF took its final lead with 1:08 left when Alan Wiggins, Jr. made a jumper from the top of the key. But Wyoming took the lead for good when Brad Jones hit two free-throws with 47 seconds remaining..

The Dons looked like they would again go ahead when Antonio Kellogg found Armondo Surratt free under the basket, but Surratt's open layup attempted rolled off the rim with 42 seconds remaining. Wyoming rebounded and Joseph Taylor made a jumper before Surratt's desperation three for the tie missed at the buzzer.

Wyoming was paced by 26 points by Brandon Jones and 13 each by James Spencer, Joseph Taylor and Brandon Ewing. The Dons got double doubles from both Antonio Kellogg of 22 points and 10 rebounds and 21 points and 11 rebounds by Alan Wiggins, Jr.

"In order to win a game you have to play well for a full 40 minutes, or today 45," said head coach Jessie Evans. "We made a lot of plays today, but in the end we couldn't get the big rebound or make the big shot. One or tow more key rebounds or a critical shot falling and the game was ours. Now we have to work hard to leave here with a win against Valparaiso."

USF lost a chance to get the last shot of regulation when USF was called for a five second violation. Ewing then attempted to win the game for Wyoming but Danny Cavic blocked his shot from behind.

The Cowboys improved to 9-3 while USF dropped to 4-9 after losing fifth straight. The Dons have only played four of the 13 games this season at home. . The Dons trailed 43-30 at the half as they struggled mightily from the floor only hitting 11 of 33 shots while the Cowboys nailed 16 of 27. The Dons only made eight of 14 free-throws, and missed all six three-pointers they attempted before intermission. USF led early in the contest 12-11, but Wyoming put together an 8-0 run and a 16-2 run to take 37-20 lead.

The Dons will play in the seventh place game of the Rainbow Classic Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time against 3-8 Valparaiso. The game will be aired live on USFDons.com but taped delayed on KQKE 960 AM.

USF, after finishing play in Hawaii will conclude pre-conference play at Louisville on December 28th. The Dons then open WCC play vs. San Diego at War Memorial Gymnasium on January 6th.