Under the bright lights of Vegas and with the promise of advancing to face #1 St. Mary's, Loyola Marymount and San Francisco faced off for the third time since New Years Eve on Friday. The Dons lost to LMU twice by a total of three points in the regular season, but were able to exact revenge on the Lions with a 67-60 win on Friday night.
As the nerves began to settle, both teams started doing what they do best: USF racked up some nice steals and both teams pushed the ball up and down the court behind their talented point guards. San Francisco seemingly couldn't miss from behind the arc, hitting seven 3-pointers in the first half led, by Michael Williams and his 12 first-half points. Though the Dons were hot from downtown, LMU somehow entered half time up one, 35-34.
In the second half, San Francisco stuttered out of the gate on the offensive end, but terrific defense kept the Dons in the game. Both teams' star players (Anthony Ireland and Coloairo) got in early foul trouble and struggled to get into a rhythm. When Ireland went down with a pulled groin with seven minutes left, it looked to be over for LMU. Nothing went right for the Lions after that, between Ireland limping up and down the court (he still played all 40 minutes) and Drew Viney being missing in action (shot 3-12 on the night). USF's role players stepped up big down the stretch and although the Lions kept nipping at their heels, the Dons were able to maintain the lead and go on to beat Loyola Marymount.
I have to admit I haven't watched much of either of these teams as I would have liked, but after tonight I'm certain to rectify that mistake in the future. This was fast-paced, hard-nosed basketball at its finest, and WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich has a great product on his hands.