LAS VEGAS - Olivia Lucero sank one of two free throws with 11 seconds remaining and a final three point attempt by Pepperdine rimmed out as the LMU women's basketball team hung on for a 68-67 win over their rival Waves in the 8/9 opening round game of the 2015 West Coast Conference Championship Thursday at the Orleans Arena.
The eighth-seeded Lions (7-23) advance to Friday's quarterfinal round where they will face top-seeded Gonzaga at noon. The win marks LMU's second straight over the Waves (8-22), and their fourth win in the last five outings.
A Lucero foul shot had LMU in the drivers' seat, 63-53 with 3:27 remaining. But the Waves had one final run in them, courtesy Keitra Wallace. The junior forward scored six straight points, including four free throws, to trim the Lion Lead down to five, 64-59.
Lucero would hit a pair of her own foul shots, but Bria Richardson responded with back-to-back layups off of LMU turnovers. She would add the and-one foul shot to the second bucket, leaving the Lions clinging to a 66-64 lead with 26 seconds remaining.
Alyson Lock would hit one of two free throws for the Lions before Wallace responded yet again, this time with a huge three from the top of the key, knotting the score at 67-67 with 14 seconds remaining. Fouled on the inbounds pass, Lucero would go back to the line once more. The sophomore guard hit her first shot and missed the second giving one last attempt to the Waves. But Tessa Emerson's three-point attempt would not fall.
Sophie Taylor led LMU with 22 points and eight boards, posting a 15-point first-half performance that helped the Lions to a 34-30 advantage at the break. Emily Ben-Jumbo had 17 points and eight rebounds and Leslie Lopez-Wood chipped in 14 points and five assists.
Wallace finished with 22 points for the Waves, including a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. Richardson and Allie Green added 15 points each while Ea Shoushtari had a game-high 14 boards.
After leading by four at the half, the Lions would push the lead to double-digits, 48-37, for the first time on a Lopez-Wood jumper with 12 minutes to play. A Makenzie Cast three gave LMU its largest lead of the game, 53-41, with just under 10 minutes remaining.
LMU finished shooting 42.3 percent from the field and 70.4 percent from the free-throw line, going 19-for-27. They held a slight 43-40 advantage on the boards, but did struggle with 22 turnovers partly due to 15 Pepperdine steals.
Marking the third straight year that the Lions opened WCC Championship play against the same opponent they ended the regular-season against, Thursday's win gave them two victories in those third meetings.