Loyola Uses Defense to Defeat USF, 113-95
West Coast Athletic Conference play opened Wednesday, and the University of San Francisco tried to hold Loyola Marymount to a moderate pace.
So, the Lions introduced a new wrinkle: A tough defense to go with its vaunted offense. The result was a 113-95 victory over the Dons before a crowd of 3,286 at Gersten Pavilion.
The Lions’ pressure defense helped them overcome an early deficit and win their 16th consecutive regular-season conference game.
Loyola is 7-5 overall, USF 8-6.
Hank Gathers led Loyola with 36 points. Enoch Simmons scored 20 and Jeff Fryer 17, including 2 3-pointers late in the game that helped put it away.
Forward Joel DeBortoli led USF with 30 points, including 21 in the second half, but star center Mark McCathrion had a subpar 6 points.
“I didn’t like the pace of the game, especially the first 8 or 9 minutes,” Loyola Coach Paul Westhead said. “We had to do it off our defense. Pressure defense makes sure we get enough (offensive) runs. When you press, you neutralize the star (McCathrion).”
USF was coming off an upset of Notre Dame in which it turned the ball over only 8 times. The Lions forced 25 turnovers, 15 after halftime. They outscored USF, 64-56, in the second half, a margin more to their liking.
“Their pressure bothered us, no question about it,” Don Coach Jim Brovelli said. “We made a little run, then they hit the 3-pointers that put it away. They forced us to make the mistakes.”
USF had control for much of the first half. Loyola lost a 20-13 lead as the Dons went ahead, 25-24, on Scott McWhorter’s 18-foot jumper. McWhorter’s rebound shot made it 27-24.
That seemed to stimulate the Lions, whose press began to force turnovers and produce fast-break baskets.
Paced by Gathers and Simmons, the Lions went on a 17-6 run to gain a 43-33 lead with 1:39 left in the half. Simmons had 10 points in the span.
The Lions maintained the double-figure lead at halftime, 49-39, a relatively modest output for them. Gathers had 16 points and Simmons 13.
But the tempo picked up in the second half behind Loyola’s defense. The Lions opened the half with a 14-8 run and were ahead, 63-47, just 4 minutes into the half.
The lead increased to 85-63 as Loyola began connecting on 3-point shots--with 6 after halftime--and the Dons continued to make turnovers. Loyola broke 100 points with 2:44 left.
“Not bad for an opener,” Westhead said.
The Lions play host to Santa Clara at 7:30 tonight in a matchup of two conference favorites.