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COLLEGES / ALAN DROOZ : Much Frustration, Little Elation for Loyola Basketball

The Loyola Marymount basketball team put the wraps on its frustrating 16-15 season Sunday by playing one of its worst games in years, losing to Princeton, 76-48.

It was the first time in four seasons the Lions had been held below 50 points. In what seemed to be a season of just-misses, the Lions just missed their fourth consecutive national scoring title, and by losing their last two games, just missed a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.

The Lions weren’t sorry to see the season end. After losing in the first round of the conference tournament, Lion Coach Jay Hillock said, “Princeton was kind of a so-what game for our guys. Our pressure didn’t disrupt them. We started to turn the ball over and we were out of it.” That happened about 10 minutes into the game.

Said another Loyola official: “The way things ended it was almost a relief we didn’t go to the NIT. It was time for the season to be over.”

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The Lions averaged 103.6 points, relinquishing the NCAA scoring championship to Southern University by about a point. They needed to score at least 76 points against Princeton to edge Southern. The Lions were also a disappointing rebounding team, a strength in past seasons. Opponents outrebounded the Lions by nearly 150 for the season.

The Lions did keep two streaks going: They made a three-point basket every game of the season, giving them 154 in a row, and scoring leader Terrell Lowery made a three-point basket for the 34th game in a row, a school record. The Lions have connected from three-point range in every game since the NCAA instituted the three-point basket rule five years ago.

In a season of fits and starts, the Lions started 0-2, won two of three, lost four in a row, won four of five, lost the next five, won 10 in a row, then lost their last two. They won one game by 46 points and lost another by 60. In his first year as coach, Hillock was stuck with a schedule that had only 11 home games. “At this rate, our home uniforms should last four years,” he quipped.

Although they lacked the firepower of recent Loyola teams, the Lions managed to get into the NCAA record books by scoring an NCAA Division I record 186 points against U.S. International. But Loyola won’t have its favorite punching bag next season, as USIU dropped basketball last week. “We’d like to lead the nation (in scoring) again, but we won’t have USIU to help,” Hillock said.

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Although the 1990-91 season had its moments, it may look better in the record books than it often did in person.

Joe Ciccarella is known for his hitting prowess, but in last weekend’s doubleheader sweep of Santa Clara, the Loyola Marymount slugger tried a little chicanery.

The ploy came after Ciccarella walked and stole second. After sliding into the bag, Ciccarella grabbed his ankle and writhed in the dirt in apparent pain, bringing a rush of concerned coaches, teammates and the trainer.

He stayed in the game, brushed off his uniform, received an ovation from the crowd--and on the next pitch attempted to steal third. He was caught stealing.

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"(Faking an injury) was my idea. I figured I’d give it a try,” he said. “I was going for an Oscar. When I was lying on the ground the first thing Coach (Tom) Thomas said was, ‘Ready to steal third?’ ”

Loyola lost to USC, 8-7, on Tuesday. The Trojans accomplished the victory in part with a five-run first inning, but Loyola Coach Chris Smith said the Trojans had a little outside help.

“They had my signs,” he said. “I called the first pitch of the game and I heard somebody in the other dugout yell, ‘Fastball’ and I said, ‘What the . . .’ Hughes gave them our signs.”

Smith was referring to former Loyola catcher Bobby Hughes, who was the Lions’ top freshman batter last year. He dropped out of school this year and is set to transfer to USC, where he has a relative on the coaching staff. As part of the catching staff last year Hughes was privy to Smith’s signs.

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“I couldn’t change my signs in the middle of a game so they had our signs all day,” Smith said.

Mark of a Pitcher: Junior right-hander Mark Tranberg wouldn’t even need his tidy 1.28 earned-run average to establish that he has become the ace of the revamped Cal State Dominguez Hills pitching staff. Consider that in forging a 5-1 record and helping the Toros take the early lead in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. race, four of Tranberg’s victories have come after Toro losses.

Thanks to Tranberg’s steady pitching, the Toros haven’t lost more than two games in a row this season. Tranberg has personally stopped both two-game losing streaks.

In the tough CCAA, Tranberg is 3-0 with three complete games, has given up only 11 hits and has an 0.67 ERA. With Tranberg in the lead, the Toros have a 1.80 conference ERA.

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Stat of the Week: Before Sunday’s 76-48 loss at Princeton, Loyola Marymount’s basketball team had been held under 50 points only four times in 10 seasons. Two of those losses were to Gonzaga teams coached by Jay Hillock--now the Lion coach.

Notes

The Dominguez Hills baseball team is ranked 17th nationally in Division II in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll . . . Toro first baseman Darrell Conner entered the week leading the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. in batting at .436. Teammate John Otte is one of three other CCAA players above .400, batting .407. Conner is also among leaders in runs batted in with 19 . . . Pepperdine first baseman Dan Melendez was named West Coast Conference baseball player of the week. The sophomore from St. Bernard High had a double, home run, five RBIs and a stolen base to lead the Waves to a three-game sweep of Nevada last weekend.

The 11th-ranked Waves play host to Loyola in a three-game series starting today with first place in the WCC on the line. The Waves are in first place at 9-2 in the WCC and 17-4 overall. Loyola is second, a half-game behind at 10-4 and 16-9. They play today at 2 p.m. and a doubleheader at noon Saturday. . . . Loyola pitcher Chad Dembisky was named WCC pitcher of the week. He had two wins and a save as the Lions swept a three-game series from Santa Clara . . . The Lions have three of the top five batters in the WCC, with Mark Tillman second at .435, Joe Ciccarella third at .425 and Gerardo Perez fifth at .385. Pepperdine’s Steve Rodriguez is first at .444 . . . Perez is second in RBIs with 30, trailing San Diego’s Kevin Herde, who has 32. Loyola’s Joe Testa is third with 24.

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