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WCC MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Loyola Nearly Misses

March 08, 2003|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Loyola Marymount survived a mistake-plagued final minute Friday night to get its first victory in the West Coast Conference men's basketball tournament since 1997.

The Lions, after leading by five with 56 seconds to play, nearly threw the game away by committing three turnovers in a row before hanging on to defeat Portland, 65-63, in a first-round game at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Loyola was vulnerable after point guard Charles Brown fouled out with 52 seconds remaining, leaving freshman guards Brandon Worthy and Wes Wardrop to handle the ball against Portland's press. The Lions never got off another shot.

Worthy and Wardrop combined for three turnovers to open the door for Portland. But the Pilots, after getting four free throws from Eugene Jeter to pull within 64-63, missed a chance to take the lead when Jeter missed a two-foot shot over Wardrop with four seconds left.

Worthy was fouled on the rebound and made one of two free throws with 2.7 seconds left.

Loyola Coach Steve Aggers didn't relax until Portland's final pass was batted away.

"We struggled, obviously," Aggers said. "Wes and Brandon showed a little bit of freshman-itis there at the end. But we won, that's the bottom line."

The seventh-seeded Lions (11-19) will play third-seeded San Francisco (14-13) in a second-round game at 6 tonight. Fourth-seeded Pepperdine (15-12) meets fifth-seeded St. Mary's (14-14) at 8:15.

Brown and forward Sherman Gay each scored 13 points to lead Loyola. The Lions overcame 20 turnovers and two-of-11 shooting from three-point range by working the ball inside against the smaller Pilots.

Gay made big plays down the stretch. His three-point play gave Loyola the lead at 60-57, with 2:43 left, and he added two close-range baskets to make it 64-59 with 56 seconds remaining.

"It was crunch time," Gay said. "I had to come through."

Brown, who had five assists, took responsibility for putting the Lions in a tough spot by fouling out.

"As a leader, I know I should have been on the floor," he said. "I had faith in my teammates, though, and fortunately we got a win."

Guards Adam Quick and Casey Frandsen scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, for sixth-seeded Portland (11-17).

In the other first-round game:

St. Mary's 65, Santa Clara 51 -- Forward Frederic Adjiwanou had 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks to help the Gaels advance to play Pepperdine.

St. Mary's and the Waves split their two regular-season games.

Eighth-seeded Santa Clara finished 13-15.

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