With Pitt men ahead, gauntlet continues for Loyola Marymount
Loyola Marymount coach Max Good said his team will play a “diabolical” schedule this season.
Starting two freshmen and two sophomores, the Los Angeles-based Lions (6-2) will play games in three time zones and two countries and travel more than 15,000 miles before the start of West Coast Conference play.
Their latest stop is Friday's nonconference matchup against Pitt (8-0) at Petersen Events Center.
“Whoever the coach was who came up with this schedule should be fired, and that coach was me,” said Good, LMU's sixth-year coach who contacted Pitt coach Jamie Dixon about scheduling the game. “You know how they say your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, that was me. I had a lot of confidence in our team coming into this year, and I still do. But I didn't count on two seniors — two starters — being out of the lineup (because of injuries).”
Loyola Marymount has received solid production from freshmen Evan Payne and Gabe Levin, who combine to average 24.8 points and 11.1 rebounds. Sophomore Ben Dickinson averages 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Dixon, however, is concentrating on stopping senior guard Anthony Ireland, who averages 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.0 steals. Ireland finished second in the conference and 14th nationally in scoring (20.2) last season.
He is quick off the dribble and plays a lot like Penn State guard Tim Frazier, who scored a game-high 27 points in Pitt's 78-69 win Tuesday. Frazier shot 10 of 17 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
“They're similar size-wise, quickness-wise. Frazier wanted to go right. This guy wants to go left,” Dixon said. “It's an advantage for the guy that can put his head down and go to the basket. That's what Frazier does. Same thing Ireland does.”
Good said Ireland — who is shooting 40.3 percent from the field, lowest among LMU's starters — may be trying to do too much.
“I think he feels a lot of responsibility, more than he needs to,” Good said.
Two years ago, the Lions finished 21-13, winning 20 games for the first time since their Elite Eight team of 1989-90.
That Elite Eight squad was the highest-scoring team in Division I history, averaging 122 points, and was led by Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers, who died from a heart condition during the WCC Tournament that year.
Dixon, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, played in pickup games with players from those LMU teams. He said this year's team, averaging 79.8 points, doesn't play as fast.
“They press,” Dixon said, “(but) it wasn't the same pace.”