It's been a long time since Loyola Marymount could chant, "We're No. 1" in anything athletic.
But no longer.
Loyola defeated Portland, 122-109, to maintain its one-game lead in the West Coast Athletic Conference. The Lions are 16-3 overall and 6-0 in the WCAC, one game ahead of Pepperdine and Santa Clara.
Not only have the Lions won a school-record 13 straight games to get off to the best start in their history, but they have overtaken Oklahoma for the best scoring average in the nation at 108.2 points per game. That announcement drew applause from the Gersten Pavilion crowd of 2,830.
Loyola ran a fast-break clinic in the first half, taking a 50-20 lead with 8:10 left and building its biggest margin, 57-20, at the 6:45 mark. The Lions' ferocious press forced Portland into 20 turnovers as Loyola took a 70-45 lead at intermission.
Lions Coach Paul Westhead called off the press in the second half, and Portland whittled at the lead, but Loyola still had 100 points--for the 13th time this season--with nine minutes left.
Guard Bo Kimble scored 27 points for the second straight night to lead all scorers, and five teammates were in double figures. Hank Gathers added 22, Corey Gaines had 28 points and 11 assists, Mike Yoest got 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Jeff Fryer had 16, hitting 4 of 5 from three-point range. The Lions outshot the Pilots, 53% to 49%, and had a 49-44 rebounding advantage.
Portland fell to 5-14 and 0-6. Guard Adolphis Gaffney led the Pilots with 25 points and 7 assists. Center Adam Simmons added 19 points.
Westhead said the national scoring lead isn't a team priority, but "it means our fastbreak system is working. This is what we do. This is what we teach. I've been running it for a long time--but we never defended before. Our defense is as pressure (oriented) as the offense."