Loyola Faces Pepperdine in Must-Win Encounter

Times Staff Writer

Loyola Marymount’s one-sided 104-79 loss to Pepperdine on Wednesday has put the Lions in an unenviable position in the West Coast Athletic Conference basketball race and emphasized again the absence of Bo Kimble.

Only a third of the way through the conference schedule, the Lions face a must-win situation Sunday when they play host to the Waves, then face St. Mary’s next Friday in Gersten Pavilion. Pepperdine, at 5-0, and St. Mary’s, 4-0 with two weekend games upcoming, remain the WCAC’s undefeated teams in conference play, so a loss to either could drop Loyola, 4-1, two games off the lead.

Pepperdine was impressive in whipping the Lions on Wednesday, closing Loyola’s running game by holding the ball and milking the clock before shooting, out-rebounding the Lions by 19, keeping Lions star Hank Gathers from second shots and handling Loyola’s full-court press to hold Loyola to its lowest point total of the season.

Forwards Tom Lewis and Dexter Howard seemed to get shots at will--they were a combined 16 of 23. And guard Craig Davis out-rebounded Gathers, the nation’s leader at 13.8 per game, 4-2.


Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury noted: “Tonight we rebounded with emotion.”

Asbury also noted, probably correctly, “We’ve got to go over there and prove it again. It’ll be much tougher, obviously, at their place.”

A home-and-home split wouldn’t be surprising. The WCAC’s top six teams have a combined home record of 36-13. Pepperdine, however, again exposed one of Loyola’s weaknesses in Kimble’s absence: lack of another source of firepower when one of the Lions’ big three has an off game.

Despite Loyola’s 110.4-point average, Gathers (averaging 33.1), Jeff Fryer (23.5) and Enoch Simmons (20.2) account for about 75% of the offense. Simmons scored only 10 points Wednesday, and Per Stumer, who averages 10.7, shot only 1 for 8. So even with Gathers scoring 25 and Fryer 22 and freshman Terrell Lowery chipping in 11 off the bench, they came up short.

A year ago, Kimble scored 92 points in three victories over Pepperdine, and his long-range bombing, coupled with Fryer’s, would make it tough for defenses to surround Gathers inside.

Kimble has returned to practice on a limited basis after arthroscopic knee surgery in late December and was hoping to suit up Sunday, but trainer Chip Schaefer said Tuesday’s non-conference game against U.S. International might be a more realistic timetable to give Kimble playing time without the pressure of a conference race.