Eight of the 10 West Coast Conference teams were in action tonight. Somehow LMU over Portland might just become the most season defining upset in 2015's WCC. Saint Mary's took care of business against a reeling San Diego team. No. 3 Gonzaga faced a stiff (and really entertaining) test from Pepperdine in Malibu. And BYU went to Stockton, Calif., where Kyle Collinsworth put his name in the NCAA history books against Pacific.
Portland Pilots 68 at LMU Lions 80
The Lions entered Thursday as the only winless team in conference play. The team's leading scorer, Evan Payne, came off the bench after missing last Saturday's game at BYU in what was simply called a "coach's decision." If head coach Mike Dunlap is trying to send Payne some kind of message, it seems to be working. While he only had seven points in the game, well below his season average of 20 per game, he only took five shots, also well below his season average of 14 per game.
LMU's veteran duo of Ayodeji Egbeyemi and Marin Mornar stepped up big with 22 and 21 points respectively. The Lions as a whole played the best team basketball they have in a very long time, if not all season. Portland, a team that very recently looked capable of battling for a top half of the standings finish, may have just given LMU a season-altering victory.
For the Pilots, this was the second game without reserve big man Riley Barker, and the Pilots haven't looked the same in either game he's missed. Unfortunately, the senior's done for the season. Portland got just one point from their preseason all-WCC center Thomas van der Mars. And Kevin Bailey, their best scorer, looked nothing like that going 1-10 from the field for just 5 points.
Portland falls to 11-7 (2-4), LMU improves to 5-13 (1-5).
San Diego Toreros 58 at Saint Mary's Gaels 70
This was supposed to be the year for Bill Grier's Toreros. The year that, behind his senior backcourt of Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson, the Toreros challenged Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's atop the conference.
That isn't what's happening in San Diego, and the cause was on display Thursday in Moraga, Calif.
San Diego is hyper-reliant on Dee and Anderson. The duo scores roughly 41% of the team's points. In this loss they combined for five first half points. While Dee did end up finishing with 15, their lack of production in the first half — and the incredible difficulty the other players have scoring the ball all the time — put San Diego in too deep of a hole to climb out of. Though, out of the gate in the second half they really made a nice effort to do so.
It's just hard to stop a guy like Brad Waldow. The senior big man had 25 points on 11-13 shooting.
Kerry Carter, 15 points, and Aaron Bright, 11, joined Waldow in double figures. That trio connected on free throws down the stretch to put the game on ice.
With the win the Gaels are now 6-0 in WCC play for just the second time under Randy Bennett. San Diego falls to a disappointing 9-10 (2-5) on the season.
Gonzaga Bulldogs 78 at Pepperdine Waves 76
Well, the Waves are for real. It's time to make note of that.
Last week it was an upset victory at BYU that put the Waves on the national radar — if only faintly. However, the Waves hold teams to a lower three point shooting percentage than any other team in the country. BYU started four guards for that game. Against Gonzaga, with a monster front line, there would be no way this team could compete. Right?
Yet they did just that, which made the final minutes the most gripping stretch of basketball in this young WCC season.
Gonzaga, barely managing a one possession lead, couldn't hit free throws. The bigs, which had been so dominant early, appeared worn out. And finally the perimeter play which has been so great since basically forever just wasn't there. Kevin Pangos air-balled a three for goodness sake.
The positives for the Zags lie mostly in the frontcourt. Domantas Sabonis, who is shooting an absurd 70.8% from the field this season, went 9-9 from the field en route to an 18 point, 12 rebound double-double. Kyle Wiltjer led all scorers with 25 points on 50% shooting. Plus, the junior transfer was the only Zag who shot well from the free throw line.
For Pepperdine, a team playing without its top assist man in Amadi Udeni, Stacy Davis had another monster game, though he needed to wait until the second half. Davis had 21 points and 7 rebounds. Jett Raines led all Waves with 22 points.
The Waves' efficiency of 117.4 was the highest mark posted against Gonzaga this season.
BYU Cougars 93 at Pacific Tigers 80
Kyle Collinsworth had another triple-double. It's almost becoming routine and that's insane. Why? We're sitting here half way thru January and the junior guard already has four triple-doubles this season. Thursday's 17, 11 and 11 performance put Collinsworth into a tie atop the NCAA single-season triple-double record list. BYU has 11 scheduled games remaining, plus the WCC tournament and likely the NIT or NCAA after that.
Collinsworth is staring down history, really impressive history at that, roughly 10 months after surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Tyler Haws led the way with 26 points. Chase Fischer added 18 and Skyler Halford, getting the start in place of an injured Anson Winder, scored 15.
It wasn't all easy, as the Tigers kept up with the Cougars for the first half. In the second, however, BYU's frantic pace proved too much for Pacific, who couldn't pull within one possession.
The Tigers leading scorers, T.J. Wallace (18 points), Gabe Aguirre (15) and Eric Thompson (13), had a generally good shooting night. Plus, the team scored 80 points. Those are promising signs for a team that hasn't been lighting it up much on the offensive end in conference play.