Loyola Marymount tuned up for next weekend's West Coast Conference tournament Saturday with a 117-81 victory over Santa Clara, the team it has met in the past two tournament finals. Before a sellout crowd of 4,156 in Gersten Pavilion, the Lions ran their record to 22-5 and finished 13-1 in the WCC. Loyola, which will play host to the tournament, opens against last-place Gonzaga at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Santa Clara (9-18, 6-8) finished in fifth place and will face fourth-place Portland. Those times will be announced today.
Bo Kimble led the Lions with 35 points and 11 rebounds. Hank Gathers added 29 points. The two shot a combined 26 of 37 as the Lions shot 60% for the game. Jeffty Connelly led Santa Clara with 26 points and center Ron Reis added 20 points and 13 rebounds.
For 12 minutes, Santa Clara successfully worked the clock and pushed the ball inside, building a lead that reached eight points.
Loyola Coach Paul Westhead then altered his press, maintaining a full-court trap that helped the Lions take a 50-36 halftime lead. In the second half, the Lions outscored the Broncos, 67-45.
The pace changed noticeably when Bronco guard Melvin Chinn was called for an intentional foul with 7:35 to play in the half. Kimble hit both free throws to pull the Lions to within 24-23, then Kimble hit a jump shot off the inbounds pass to give Loyola its first lead.
A Connelly layup momentarily put Santa Clara ahead, but Gathers scored the next six points in the midst of a 16-3 run and Loyola built its 14-point halftime lead. Gathers scored 18 and Kimble 15 in the first half.
"We went to a press we've never used," Westhead said. "It's a very chancy defense. Usually you tire after three minutes. We used it for 23 minutes. It's like a contingency defense, if someone's holding the ball and we don't like the pace, we'll use it. I think it turned the game around. To us, pace is all-important."
The Lions pushed it into overdrive early in the second half. They had an 8-0 streak over 22 seconds and outscored the Broncos, 25-6, in a 3:23 span, taking an 87-54 lead on Kimble's three-point basket with more than 11 minutes left. The Lions forced the Broncos into 17 second-half turnovers.
Gathers, who made 12 of 16 shots, called Saturday's effort "one of the best games we've played in several weeks. We did something a little different and it speeded up the game. The team's energy level was real high. I'm not tired--I don't even feel like I played a game."
It took the Lions a little longer than usual to reach 100 points, but they managed it with 5:50 left for the 24th time this season, an NCAA record.
Westhead hopes to keep adding to it for a while. "The significance (of the record) is when we get into the hundreds, we usually win. Hopefully we've got a lot more games to go."