Loyola Marymount's Keith Smith and Forrest McKenzie, dubbed Smith & Wesson by one San Francisco writer after they shot down California last week, play against Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo., at 6:30 tonight in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The team with the hot hand and the halftime lead figures to win this one. Wyoming (21-11) is 18-6 in games in which it shoots 50% or better and has a team shooting percentage of 52.5%. The Cowboys are 17-2 in games they have led at the half, 2-7 when they trailed.
Loyola (19-11), advancing to a second round of post-season play for the first time in school history, is shooting 50% as a team and is 13-3 when the Lions shoot better than 50%. The Lions are 17-1 in games they have led at the half--including last week's first-round 80-75 victory over Cal--and are 1-8 when they trailed at the half.
Smith and McKenzie, averaging 20.9 and 20 points respectively, totaled 44 points against Cal and are Loyola's top players. McKenzie's 30 points were the most against defensive-minded Cal this year. But the recent play of freshman guard Enoch Simmons and junior center Vic Lazzaretti are the extra ingredients that have made Loyola, in Coach Paul Westhead's estimate, an improving team.
Simmons, who had freshman jitters in big early-season games against UCLA and Pepperdine, hit 5 of 6 shots against Cal. Westhead said: "If there was an extra dimension, it was Enoch Simmons knocking down four straight," late in the second half.
Lazzaretti, a 6-8 transfer from Marquette who lost his starting job early in the season, still comes off the bench but has become a force for Loyola in the last six games. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds at Berkeley and was effective against a taller front line. Simmons is averaging nine points. Lazzaretti has been the leading rebounder with 29 in the last three games. Sophomore 6-7 forward Mike Yoest averages 10.8 points.
Loyola will have a height advantage in Laramie, where the Cowboy front court features 6-11 sophomore Eric Leckner, a Manhattan Beach Mira Costa High School product, flanked by 6-4 sophomore Fennis Dembo and 6-6 junior Jon Sommers. Dembo is the best all-around player, leading in scoring (16.1 average) and rebounding (6.4) He averaged 22 points over the last eight games.
Leckner has blossomed into a 15.9-point scorer and was Most Valuable Player of the Western Athletic Conference tournament. Guards Turk Boyd, another sophomore, and Les Bolden, the only senior in the lineup and a 13-point scorer, round out the starters.
The Cowboys tied Texas El Paso for the WAC title at 12-4 but lost the tournament final and a bid to the NCAA, 65-64. They opened NIT play with a 79-70 victory over Texas A&M in front of 9,000 fans in Laramie's Auditorium-Arena and get to stay home on the range for Loyola, which is 0-2 in Wyoming.
In a 1983 loss to Wyoming in Casper, Smith and McKenzie had a rare game in which neither scored double figures.
Tonight's winner will play either Thursday or Friday in a third-round quarterfinal. The final four advance to Madison Square Garden in New York.