USA TODAY Sports
The 9th-seeded Lions are making noise in Las Vegas.
After entering the tournament on a 14-game losing streak, the Loyola Marymount Lions have a second round win under their belt and are clearly the early story of the tournament. The Lions upset the fifth-seeded San Francisco Dons, 61-60 in overtime on Thursday night.
The Lions came into this tournament with something to prove and arrived for their second round matchup visibly focused. LMU got out to an early lead by the combined efforts from a variety of players. By the ten minute mark of the first half, San Francisco had closed the early gap. At the break LMU was maintaining a 3 point lead at 29-26. It went back and forth like that all night.
Godwin Okonji had 8 points and 5 rebounds at half time. Anthony Ireland got into some early foul trouble and the Lions relied on contributions from several different players in the first half. San Francisco was led by Mark Tollefson (10 points) and Cole Dickerson (9 points, 5 rebounds) during the first half.
The Lions came out fighting again early in the second half and appeared to be pulling away until USF's Dickerson led the Dons on an 8-0 run that tied it up again midway through the second period.
With seconds to go and LMU leading by two, the Dons attempted to foul Ireland and stop the clock. There was no call. So they fouled him five more times and the referees failed to blow the whistle. After being manhandled by four San Francisco defenders, Ireland gave up the steal and the Dons tied up the game sending it into overtime.
Overtime proved to be just as close as the rest of the game. Cole Dickerson made his best effort to will a victory for the Dons. His 23 point, 18 rebound performance was highlighted by shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc. In the end the effort came up just short. LMU combined the efforts of Anthony Ireland (16 points, 6 rebounds), Godwin Okonji (14 points, 10 rebounds), Ashley Hamilton (11 points, 14 rebounds) and Taylor Walker (13 points, 4 rebounds) for a hard-fought, one-point victory in overtime.
The team that entered this tournament on a 14 game losing streak has now managed to win their first and second round matchups. Someone should call Santa Clara and put them on notice. The Lions are hungry.