There is a point in a season—unless the opponent has one win—where a loss can prove to be beneficial. If another defeat follows, dropping six out seven West Coast Conference games—case in point—there certainly is no such thing as a good loss.
The San Diego Toreros (13-13, 5-6 WCC) handed Loyola Marymount (2-24, 1-9 WCC) their first conference win in Los Angeles Thursday (65-57), as the Lions simply outplayed an unfocused San Diego squad. Dating back to last season, it was only the second win in the last 32 contests for the Lions.
“They just played so much harder than we did from the start,” coach Bill Grier said. “I thought our effort over 40 minutes was really poor. I was worried about us coming out with the approach that we did, and I just couldn't shake them out of it.”
San Diego got a 14-point, 11-rebound performance from Rob Jones, his third double-double of the season, including nine of those boards on the offensive end. But sophomore guard Vernon Teel paced the Lions’ offensive attack, tallying 21 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Teel missed the Jan. 17 contest, which San Diego won 70-59.
“Vernon Teel definitely makes them a different team than they were when we played them in San Diego,” Jones said.
Jones was not opposed to the idea of taking a one-win team lightly.
“We came out thinking we could just cruise, and even though we got the lead a couple of times, we couldn't put them away.”
LMU opened with a 20-11 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Toreros rallied to go ahead 29-28 before heading into halftime trailing 30-29. The Toreros took their only lead of the second half, 38-37, with 15:05 to play behind a Devin Ginty three-pointer.
Offensive production woes continue to plague the Toreros, as they shot just 36.2 percent from the field, including 4-of-21 from three-point range (19 percent) and 11-of-19 from the free throw line (57.9 percent).
Since sixth-place Pepperdine defeated Santa Clara, San Diego remained in a tie for fourth place with the Broncos, as they looked to rebound at Pepperdine (8-18, 5-5 WCC) Saturday. A much-needed victory would keep the Toreros on pace for a top-four finish in the WCC and a first-round bye in the WCC conference tournament.
San Diego came out firing from tip-off, as the Waves were at low tide, and opened up a 19-8 advantage. Guard Danny Brown made the third start of his USD career in place of Trumaine Johnson and provided a big lift during the opening stretch, converting back-to-back three-pointers.
Forward Geno Pomare was magnificent early on, scoring eight points in the opening seven minutes. But Pomare’s picture and last name would be found on the back of a milk carton for the remainder of the game, as Pomare finished with those eight points and got just four minutes of run in the second half. Johnson sat alongside Pomare, tallying just three minutes of court time in the second half.
“I'm going to play guys who are going to play hard and compete,” Grier said. “(Pomare), for whatever reason, hasn't been. He's going to have other opportunities, but he's got to show that he really wants to play hard and be the kind of player that he has been.”
Missed shots and turnovers were the theme for San Diego for the remainder of the first half, as Pepperdine went on a 16-4 run to close heading into the break leading 30-28.
San Diego could not penetrate the swarming Waves’ zone defense and trailed for the majority of the second half. With 2:20 remaining, the Toreros appeared all but through before putting on a stifling full-court press. The press, led by Rob Jones (13 points, seven rebounds), troubled the Waves, as they got the ball past half court just once for the remainder of the game.
Trailing 54-52 with 16 seconds remaining, the Toreros got yet another steal, and with a chance to take the lead, De’Jon Jackson found an open Danny Brown in the corner, who came up long on a three-point attempt.
Freshman guard Keion Bell, who got better as the night went on, turned in a quality effort, leading the Waves with 18 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, and four assists.
Returning southbound on Interstate 5 winless was certainly not what San Diego envisioned heading into this road trip. The remainder of conference play toughens for San Diego, as their next three matchups are against the top three WCC teams—St. Mary’s, Portland, and Gonzaga—plus a BracketBuster non-conference matchup against Pacific University (14-9).