Has Loyola Marymount sunk slowly in the West or is there still some bite in the Lions? They'll find out when the basketball team plays five of its final seven West Coast Athletic Conference games at home beginning this weekend with St. Mary's on Friday and the University of San Diego on Saturday.
Those teams are Loyola's latest tormentors as the Lions have suffered a three-game losing streak to fall to 2-5 (10-10 overall). San Diego, the WCAC's top team at 7-1 (16-4 overall), administered a 82-48 whipping to the Lions last week, then St. Mary's (4-3, 13-9) beat them, 78-64.
The Lions had personnel and foul problems in each game--freshman guard Jeff Fryer is out with a leg injury and Mark Armstromg and Darryl Carter missed the Dan Diego game for breaking curfew--but the basic symptom in each loss was poor shooting. In the two games Loyola shot 32%, hitting only 40 of 119. Loyola hopes the home court will provide a boost. The Lions are 8-2 at home, 2-8 on the road. They probably need to win at least their remaining home games to have a shot at playing at home in the first round of the WCAC postseason tournament. The top four teams will play at home against the bottom four.
The only player who has stood out in Loyola's three-game losing streak is sophomore guard Enoch Simmons, the Lions' top scorer in each of his three starts. Simmons, who began slowly after preseason knee surgery, has his average up to 9.8 points. Forward Mike Yoest continues to lead with a 21.1 average, followed by guard Chris Nikchevich at 13.1 and forward Mark Armstrong at 13. Armstrong remains the top rebounder with 9.8 per game.
The Lions are scoring 86.5 points per game while allowing 89.1. They are shooting 46% despite their recent slump.
St. Mary's, in last place before last weekend, moved ahead of Loyola and Pepperdine by beating both Los Angeles teams. Guard Paul Robertson and forward Robert Haugen are the Gaels' top scorers at about 13 points apiece, but their top scorer last week was point guard David Carter. The 5-10 sophomore out of Crenshaw High had a career-high 20 against Loyola. St. Mary's is 1-7 on the road.
San Diego has a balanced lineup featuring 7-foot center Scott Thompson (16 points per game), 6-8 forward Nils Madden (11.7) and point guard Paul Leonard (10.8). The player who hurt the Lions early in last week's game was forward Mark Manor (9.1 average), who canned three of four three-pointers on the way to 15 points. San Diego is 7-4 on the road, one of the few WCAC teams with a good record away from home.