Pressure Off, Loyola Is Easy Winner
Losing twice at home last weekend didn’t sit well with Loyola Marymount, which could see its once-promising season slipping away.
The Lions did something about it Wednesday night, rolling to an 80-69 West Coast Conference victory over Pepperdine before 2,299 at Loyola.
“Tonight was a real check for us,” said point guard Jim Williamson, who led Loyola with 18 points and seven assists. “We had to see how we were going to respond and finish up the rest of the season.
“We could go one of two ways: We could pack it in or keep fighting. I think everybody wants to keep fighting.”
The Lions (10-7, 2-3) had talked of challenging for the conference title before playing their two worst home games of the season last weekend, losing to San Diego and San Francisco.
So, what was their mood as they met Monday for practice?
“Almost a little relief,” Coach John Olive said. “I know, I was a little surprised. But we had a team meeting and talked about it. They were feeling a little pressure and a little stress.
“But rather than going in the tank, they responded by saying, ‘Hey, let’s go out and enjoy playing.’ We put a little too much pressure on ourselves last weekend, knowing how important it was, and the kids didn’t have fun.”
Seemingly more energized, the Lions shot 54.9%, building a 21-point lead before letting up.
Forward Wyking Jones scored 16 points, forward Mike O’Quinn 15 and guard Robin Kirksey 13 for Loyola, which also got 13 points, 13 rebounds and four steals from center Ime Odouk.
Pepperdine opened an 8-4 lead before Loyola put together an 11-0 run to take the lead for good.
Forward Monte Marcaccini scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the first half for the Waves, including a three-point basket that pulled Pepperdine (6-11, 2-3) within 33-31 with 3:39 to play in the half.
Williamson, though, answered with two three-point baskets in the next two minutes, the second starting a 9-2 run that gave Loyola a 45-35 halftime lead. The Lions never again led by fewer than 10 points.