Loyola-Marymount coach Steve Aggers had a simple yet difficult decision to make before facing the Washington Huskies here yesterday, a game UW won 100-93. To run with the...
LOS ANGELES Loyola-Marymount coach Steve Aggers had a simple yet difficult decision to make before facing the Washington Huskies here yesterday, a game UW won 100-93.
To run with the Huskies whose 88 points-per-game average coming in ranked among the top dozen in the country or not to run?
Apparently remembering that Loyola-Marymount is the school that set the NCAA single-game scoring record with 186 on this very same Gersten Pavilion court in 1991, Aggers took the running option.
“Many teams want to run a ball-control style (against UW), but we are a defensive pressure team that also likes to run,” Aggers said. “We thought it best on our home court to run with them.”
And that made for an entertaining, if ultimately disappointing, game for the home fans as the Lions kept pace with the Huskies for about 25 minutes before falling victim to one big UW run, an 18-2 spurt in the second half that gave Washington all the cushion it needed. But the Huskies needed to overcome a sloppy finish to hit the century mark for the first time this season.
The Huskies also became the first team to hit the 100 mark on this court where it was once so commonplace since Gonzaga in February 2000. The win was UW’s first on an opposing court this season and improved the Huskies’ record to 7-1, their best eight-game start in seven years, as they head into a stretch of five straight home games and eight of 10 at Edmundson Pavilion.
UW guard Nate Robinson wasn’t sure if it was the ghost of LMU teams of past that had anything to do with the game’s raucous pace, but he sensed something out of the ordinary all day.
“I just felt an extra presence,” Robinson said. “I don’t know what it was. I just felt it the whole game. It was just up and down and fun. It was unbelievable.”
Maybe that explained the fact that the Huskies had three 20-point scorers Robinson with 28, Tre Simmons with 26 and Bobby Jones with 21 something school officials weren’t sure has ever happened before.
Maybe it also explained the fact that Will Conroy tied a career high with nine assists in the first half and finished with 13 tied for fourth-most in school history.
And maybe it also explained why the Huskies never really felt comfortable. LMU cut a 15-point lead with 4:10 to go to five with 13 seconds left before finally succumbing.
For a while, the possibility of an upset loomed heavy. LMU, 5-2, came in fired up and spurred on by a crowd whose official count of 2,006 didn’t do justice to its enthusiasm. The Lions gave them plenty to cheer about in the first half as they battled the Huskies toe-to-toe. With nine lead changes and no Huskies lead larger than eight, it finished in a 46-46 tie.
“They played superb ball,” said Jones.
The Lions then scored the first five points of the second half. But Simmons countered with a three-pointer to soften the noise a bit, then hit another 40 seconds later to put UW ahead. Simmons hit 4 of 6 three-pointers as he notched a career high in points for the second straight game. He has averaged 23 points in his last three games and made the Huskies barely miss the injured Brandon Roy.
LMU last led 60-59 with 14:55 left. But that was about the same time the Huskies decided to go with a zone defense.
“They were going too good offensively,” Jones said. “We had to do something to take them out of character.”
LMU proceeded to go 1 for 8 from the floor as the Huskies went on an 18-2 run to take a 77-62 lead with 9:31 left.
“When they get it going it is like they are running downhill,” Aggers said.
LMU, going uphill the rest of the game, never could get to the top as the Huskies hung on.
Romar said Roy’s recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery is going well and he should be back for either the game against Houston on Dec. 24 or the Pac-10 opener against Cal on Dec. 31.
Simmons had 16 points at halftime, and Robinson had eight.
After making just 3 of 8 three-pointers in the first half, UW hit 6 of 7 in the second half. UW also hit 14 of 17 free throws in the second half after making 7 of 14 in the first half.
Backup forward Dustin Brown, who hadn’t scored more than nine points all season, came off the bench to score 18 for LMU, tying for team-high honors, as the Lions’ bench outscored UW’s 35-7.
One reason the Huskies didn’t get much bench scoring is that senior forward Hakeem Rollins, battling tendinitis in his knee, played just four minutes, all in the first half.
Simmons also tied a career high with nine rebounds.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org