Efrem Leonard is 100% healthy again, or so he says. Danny Means always has been.
For one reason or another (bad knee, pulled hamstring, aggravated groin or bronchitis), Leonard has missed eight games this year for the University of San Diego men’s basketball team, including seven in the West Coast Athletic Conference. Means, the Toreros’ Lou Gehrig, hasn’t missed a game in his four-year career.
Together, Leonard and Means represent the Toreros’ senior class.
Tuesday against U.S. International University, in their final game in the USD Sports Center, Leonard and Means started in the back court together for only the second time this year.
The combination was worthy. Leonard and Means led a spirited USD attack for a 91-78 victory in front of 1,044 fans.
“The seniors made the difference tonight,” said USD forward Gylan Dottin, who scored a team-high 23 points. “They came out hitting everything. And we just followed their lead.”
Not exactly. You see, it was Dottin who scored the game’s first points--three of them on a layup and a free throw after a Gary Williams foul.
USD never trailed as the Toreros won for the second time in three games after losing six in a row. USD improved to 8-19. USIU finished its season 11-17.
“We’re pleased with the season we had,” said Gull Coach Gary Zarecky, whose team finished one game better than last season’s 10-18. “A few breaks and we might have won 15 or 16 ball games. And we’re young.”
Matt Judd is the only senior; the Gulls have nine juniors on their roster. USIU also played Tuesday’s game without leading scorer Demetius Laffitte, who injured his right knee in the Gulls’ loss to San Diego State University Saturday.
Said Zarecky, “I don’t think there’s a coach in the country who can loose his best player and have the team play up to its potential.”
USD Coach Hank Egan had his team playing near its potential.
In the first half, USD led, 50-42, as the Toreros shot 54% (14 of 26) from the floor and 76% (19 of 25) from the free-throw line.
The 50 points was a high for USD in the first half this season (the Toreros scored 48 against Loyola Marymount). Leonard and Dottin had 12 points each and Kelvin Woods 11.
USIU was paced by Williams and Paul Wilson with 15 and 13 points. The Gulls shot 43%, and 56% from the line. USD outrebounded the Gulls, 24-15.
Never trailing, USD patiently built a 39-27 lead with 6:50 left in the half. But USIU cut that to 39-37 with a 10-point surge.
In the second half, USD took control with an 11-2 run that gave them a 70-58 lead with 8:58 remaining. The Toreros, hot in the first half, were even better in the second.
USD made 56% (13 of 23) from the floor and 78% (14 of 18) from the free-throw line. In addition to Dottin’s 23 points, Woods finished with 17, Leonard 16, Craig Cottrell 14 and Means nine.
“We executed pretty well,” Egan said. “We got the shots when we wanted them, and we made them.”
USIU’s Paul Wilson finished with a game-high 33 points. Williams added 16 and Paul Sterner 11.
When it was over, Leonard, now healthy, talked of the future. “I’m able to run. My legs feel great . . . “
And Means, who always has been healthy, talked of the past. “It’s been a long time. I can’t even remember that first game.”
You won Danny, 63-54, over Nevada Reno.