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Lions Host Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Tournament

Nov. 21, 2007

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11th Annual Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Tournament
Friday, November 23:
Indiana State (2-0) vs. San Diego State (3-0) - 2 p.m.
LMU (2-2) vs. Jackson State (1-1) - 4 p.m.

Saturday, November 24:
Consolation Game - 2 p.m.Championship Game - 4 p.m.

For the 11th consecutive season, LMU will play host to the Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Tournament. This year's field brings Jackson State, Indiana State, and San Diego State to Gersten Pavilion for the two-day extravaganza. In Friday's opener, Indiana State will take on San Diego State at 2 p.m., followed by LMU vs. Jackson State. The winners will play for the championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. after the consolation game.

All four tournament games will be available live on Gametracker through the LMU website.Angela Kiel and Patrick Duggan return as the voices of Lion's women's basketball on Lions All-Access this season. For the fourth straight season, all LMU women's basketball games will be broadcast live on www.LMULions.com. They will broadcast all LMU games live.Loyola Marymount University, in conjunction with Stretch Internet, is proud to present, FREE, live audio broadcasts over the World Wide Web on www.LMULions.com. Just click on the "Listen" or "Archive" link next to the game of your choice (you will be automatically directed to download QuickTime if it's not yet installed on your computer). All broadcasts will be archived within 72 hours of their original airing and will include both the pre-game and post-game shows.

The 2007-08 LMU women's basketball media guide is available for download at www.lmulions.com. Copies may also be purchased for $15 from the LMU Media Relations Office.

Jackson State got its first win of the season on Monday, 67-47 over McNeese State at home. LaSharee Christian poured in a game-high 23 points as the Lady Tigers led by 20 at the half and cruised to the win. She added eight rebounds, five steals, and five assists. Ebonie Ross chipped in with 12 points and Lashonda Gains 10.JSU had dropped its season opener on November 14 at Arkansas, 72-49. Christian was the only Tiger to score in double figures with 18 points on 7-19 shooting. She also dished out a game high seven assists and two steals.Christian leads the Lady Tigers in most major categories, averaging 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 3.5 steals in 35.0 minutes per game.Denise Taylor is in her sixth season as head coach of the Lady Tigers, compiling a record of 73-48. Her career coaching record is 147-111 in 11 seasons. Last year, Jackson State went 22-11 and made the WNIT after posting a 14-4 mark during Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) play. They return seven letterwinners and three starters.Among this year's tournament participants, Jackson State has only ever faced San Diego State, losing 90-77 in 1985.
JSU vs. Tournament Field:
JSU vs. LMU - First Meeting
JSU vs. ISU - First Meeting
JSU vs. SDSU - SDSU leads 1-0

Indiana State rolls into the Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Tournament having won both its games, including a 77-72 overtime upset of then-#17 Vanderbilt on November 14. Kelsey Luna had 22 points, including five three-pointers, to pace the Sycamores. Laura Rudolphi added 17 points and Maria Olsthoorn 12 off the bench. It was ISU's first victory over a ranked foe since 1998. On November 11, the Sycamores won their home opener, 89-55 over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.Rudolphi leads the Sycamore attack with 18.0 ppg. Luna is just behind on 17.0 with Olsthoorn third at 13.5. ISU averages 83.0 points per game as a team.Now in his eighth season as head coach at Indiana State, Jim Wiedie has a 129-77 record with the Sycamores. Last season, he led them to a 19-11 record and third place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference after going 12-6 in conference play. Ten letterwinners and four starters return from that squad.Indiana State's lone meeting against any of this year's tournament squads came back in 1999 when they lost 53-99 to San Diego State.
ISU vs. Tournament Field:
ISU vs. SDSU - SDSU leads 1-0
ISU vs. LMU - First Meeting
ISU vs. JSU - First Meeting

San Diego State went on the road to open its season, beating Nevada and Saint Mary's. In Reno, three players scored in double figures in the 67-61 win, led by Quenese Davis' 17 points. Paris Johnson added 16 points and nine rebounds while Allison Duffy had 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Four players reached double figures at Saint Mary's as the Aztecs shot 55% for the game to run away 83-60 victors. Jené Morris had a game-high 17 points, Shanna Demus and Duffy 13 each, with Davis chipping in with 12.On Tuesday, the Aztecs hosted Southern Utah with head coach Beth Burns aiming for her 250th career victory. The Aztecs made sure she would reach the milestone early, taking a 43-18 haltime lead en route to an 86-52 win. Johnson had a game-high 14 points, followed by Demus with 12 and Duffy with 10.Davis is one of four players averaging double figures at 12.7 per game. Duffy pours in 12.3 ppg along with 6.0 rpg, with Johnson on 12.0 ppg and 6.7 rpg and Morris on 10.3 ppg.Beth Burns is in her second stint as head coach f the Aztecs, putting together a record of 169-123 11 seasons at San Diego State. She is 250-188 in 15 total years as a head coach. The Aztecs went 12-16 last season, placing seventh in the Mountain West Conference with a 5-11 record. They bring back seven letterwinners and four starters.San Diego State is the only team to have played all three of the other tournament teams before, going a combined 6-2. The Aztecs defeated both Indiana State and Jackson State at home, beating the Sycamores 53-39 in 1999 and the Lady Tigers 90-77 in 1985.
SDSU vs. Tournament Field:
SDSU vs. ISU - SDSU leads 1-0
SDSU vs. JSU - SDSU leads 1-0
SDSU vs. LMU - SDSU leads 4-2

After three straight home games to start the 2007-08 season, LMU finally returned to Gersten Pavilion, hoping to give the home crowd an exciting home opener. That they did, as LMU and UC Santa Barbara battled for 40 minutes in a wild roller-coaster ride but the Gauchos emerged victors, 79-69. The Lions started slow, missing their first seven shots while the Gauchos were the opposite, hitting their first five to build a 13-4 lead. UCSB held its advantage throughout the half and took a nine-point lead into the locker room. Coming out of halftime, senior Amanda DeCoud put the Lions on her back, scoring 12 points over the next ten minutes as LMU ran off a 31-10 run over the first 10:30 of the second half to turn the nine-point deficit into an 11-point advantage, 58-47. The Lions got the crowd going with a 19-2 run but then it was the Gauchos' turn as UCSB flipped the tables to end the game on a 32-11 spurt of its own for the victory.DeCoud equaled her career-high of 19 points set last Thursday, adding five steals and five assists. Four days after setting a new career-high with 11 points at Long Beach State, sophomore Jessica Vargas topped that with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, adding seven rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Lisa Helmers contributed 12 points and six rebounds while senior Valerie Ogoke had six points and 12 boards.

Monday's visit by UC Santa Barbara marked LMU's first home contest of the 2007-08 season but it was not a pleasant homecoming as UCSB handed the Lions just their second loss in a home opener in the last nine seasons. Overall, LMU is 8-5 in its home debuts under Julie Wilhoit.

One noticeable difference through the first four games between the 2007-08 Lions and their predecessors is evident in the rebounding category. Last season, LMU averaged 37 rebounds a game and a shade under 13 offensive rebounds a game. Already this season they have bumped those numbers up to 44.8 total rebounds (second in the WCC) and 18 offensive rebounds. A big reason for the increase has been the play of senior Valerie Ogoke and redshirt freshman Aleyse Evans. The duo is combining for 17.3 rebounds per game, and each ranks in the conference's top ten. Ogoke is second at 9.3 rpg with Evans tied for sixth at 8.0. Even more impressive has been the pursuit of rebounds by the guards, as LMU's starting backcourt of Amanda DeCoud and Jessica Vargas combine for 9.0 rebounds per game. Vargas is also among the league leaders, tying for 20th.

The cog that keeps the Lion offense and defense rolling continues to be senior Amanda DeCoud. The reigning WCC Defender of the Year is averaging team-highs of 12.8 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals, and 32.0 minutes to go along with 4.0 rebounds per game. After a slow start offensively, DeCoud has kicked it up a notch in the last two games, putting up back-to-back career-highs of 19 points at Long Beach State and at home versus UC Santa Barbara. Against the Gauchos, DeCoud single-handedly carried the Lions back from by scoring 12 points in a 10-minute stretch after halftime to turn a nine-point halftime deficit into an 11-point lead. At UNLV, DeCoud's full-court dash and layup at the buzzer against the Rebels gave the Lions their first victory of 2007-08.DeCoud is 10th in the WCC in scoring and is tied for first in steals per game with 3.0 and continues to climb the LMU career steals chart. Her 177 put her in seventh place.

Junior Cassady Moore got off to a fast start, putting up back-to-back 12 point outings in the first two games. A knee injury has sidelined her for the last two but she hopes to return soon as the Lions could use her on both ends of the court. The key to Moore's offensive explosion was her defense. She is tied for first on the team steals per game with 3.0 and her quickness led to numerous fastbreak opportunities.Moore was also leading the Lions in assists (3.5 per game), pulling down 3.5 rebounds per game, and shooting 45.0% from the floor, tops among guards on the team.

One of the key components to the high-tempo offense and defense for LMU is its guard depth. Another player who demonstrates that long bench is sophomore Jessica Vargas. Vargas started this season on the bench but has stepped into a starting role with the injury to Moore. She has responded with back-to-back career-highs in her first two starts, scoring 11 points at Long Beach State before exploding for 17 points (and seven rebounds) in the home opener vs. UCSB. She ranks among the WCC leaders in scoring averaged (10.0 ppg, tied 23rd), rebounding average (5.0 rpg, tied 20th), field goal percentage (59.3%, third), and offensive rebounds per game (3.00, tied sixth).

If you're looking for the biggest jump in scoring average from last season, that achievement belongs to sophomore Lisa Helmers. After averaging 1.5 ppg in 25 appearances off the bench as a freshman, Helmers has started all four games thus far and is tied for fourth on the team with 8.3 ppg. Her back-to-back nine point outings to start the season tied for her career-high, which she topped with 12 points vs. UC Santa Barbara. She is proving to be a viable threat from downtown, hitting eight of the team's 13 three-pointers.

Redshirt freshman Aleyse Evans has made the most of her opportunities after sitting out last season. In her first four games in the Lion uniform, Evans is averaging 6.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg. In her collegiate debut at Boise State, Evans tied for the game-high with 10 rebounds in just 16 minutes off the bench. That was enough to earn her first career start on Sunday at UNLV. She responded with 12 boards and her second straight six-point outing. That was followed by eight points, eight rebounds, and four blocks at Long Beach State.In addition to being tied for sixth in rebounding, Evans is fourth in blocked shots per game (2.00).

Senior Valerie Ogoke is breaking out of the shadow of the departed Ashlee Dunlap and Jennifer Hall. Given an increased role in the guard-oriented Lion offense, Ogoke had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes in the season opener at Boise State. Ogoke equaled her career-high with 12 rebounds against UCSB and leads the team with 9.3 rpg.Ogoke is leading the WCC in offensive rebounds per game (4.50) to go along with being second in rebounding and tied for seventh in blocked shots (1.50 per game).

Coach Wilhoit said they were athletic and would contribute right away and she is right. Freshmen Renahy Young and Melanie Ysaguirre have each come off the bench to give the Lions solid minutes in their collegiate debuts.At Boise State, Young had 11 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes. She showed her aggressiveness from the get-go, getting to the free throw line a game-high seven times. Such is the life of a freshman, she has come down from that high but is still averaging 5.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, and 1.3 spg in the guard-heavy Lion rotation. She is 14th in the league in free throw percentage at 76.9%.At her current pace, Ysaguirre will shatter the school record for shooting percentage in a season as she is off to a blistering 80.0% clip to start, going 8-for-10 from the floor in the season's first four games. Ysaguirre has yet to have a break-out game but is averaging 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds (70% of which is offensive) in just 7.8 minutes per game.

The 2007-08 LMU roster features six players from outside California, four of which will get the pleasure of a road trip to their hometown this season. First up is redshirt freshman Maggie Burkett, who returns to her native Boise on Nov. 9 having claimed the Idaho Player of the Year award two years ago. Next to return home is sophomore Jessica Vargas when LMU visits Northern Arizona in Flagstaff on Dec. 2. Finally, senior Bronwyn Evans and freshman Lauren Wilkins will return to Portland on Jan. 10.

LMU's 2007-08 schedule will be fraught with tests as the Lions could face eight teams that made the 2007 postseason. The difficult schedule begins right away as LMU opens at WAC champions and NCAA First Rounders Boise State. Also slated from the NCAA Tournament are Cal (away Nov. 28), George Washington (away, Dec. 18), and Gonzaga (away Jan. 12, home Feb. 7). The Lions will also square off against WNIT squads UC Santa Barbara (home Nov. 19), Jackson State (home Nov. 23), and San Diego (away Jan. 31, home March 1). Another possible WNIT Tournament opponent looms in Kansas State.

For the first time since 2003-04, LMU will be the site of two non-conference tournaments as the Lions host the Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Tournament and the Hilton LAX Holiday Tournament. Now in its 11th year, the Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Classic will be held November 23-24 and features Indiana State, San Diego State, and LMU's first-round opponents, Jackson State. Previous tournament champions include North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Texas A&M, and LMU, who won in 2001, 2002, and 2003.LMU will also host a tournament over the winter break when the Hilton LAX Holiday Tournament invades Gersten on December 28-29. This year's lineup features Arkansas-Little Rock, Kansas State, and Cal State Bakersfield.