Portland 55, Loyola Marymount 41
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—The Portland Pilots did something Friday night they haven’t done in a decade—they won a West Coast Conference Tournament game.
Even better, they did it at the Chiles Center, in front of their fans.
Freshman Taishi Ito scored 16 points to lead Portland to its first WCC Tournament win since 1996, with a 55-41 victory over Loyola Marymount Friday night.
It was the lowest total combined point output in West Coast Conference Tournament history. Darren Cooper had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Pilots (9-22), who move on to play third seed Saint Mary’s Saturday. The seventh-seeded Pilots went 4-10 in the conference regular season, lost 10 of their last 12 games, and entered the tournament tied with Pepperdine for the worst record in the WCC.
And yet, Portland’s first-year coach Eric Reveno said he could see good things coming.
“As I allowed myself this week to look ahead to the conference tournament, I found I was as optimistic as a coach of a 4-10 team could be. When you have good kids playing as hard as they do, it makes it a ton easier.”
Matthew Knight had 15 points and seven rebound for Loyola Marymount(13-18). Adoyah Miller added 12 points.
In a game where both teams employed zone defenses and dared each other to shoot, both had trouble scoring.
The sixth-seeded Lions shot just 27.8 percent, and made 4 of 23 3-pointers. They went long stretches of the second half without scoring a field goal. The Pilots outrebounded LMU 40-31.
Ito, a freshman from Mie, Japan, was Portland’s only consistent scorer in the first half, with 11 of the Pilots’ first 13 points.
Portland, which trailed 14-7 early, led 21-20 at halftime.
The Pilots scored the first nine points of the second half, forcing LMU coach Rodney Tention into a timeout to regroup just two minutes in. For the next 4:30 neither team made a field goal—the Lions made six free throws. Ito tossed in a long 3 for the Pilots and LMU’s first field goal of the half came just before the 12-minute mark.
Cooper hit a jumper, Ben Sullivan followed with a jump hook, and Sherrad Watson made a floater in the lane to to put the Pilots up 39-28.
“We just didn’t want this to be the last game of the season,” Cooper said.
Ito’s long 3 extended the lead to 14.
Knight scored a layup to get the Lions within 49-41, but Watson brought the house with a ferocious breakaway dunk at 1:40.
The Lions, the sixth seed, struggled after losing leading-scorer Brandon Worthy 13 games into the season, but played better down the stretch, with upsets of Gonzaga and Santa Clara in the past month.
“I feel absolutely horrible for my seniors,” Tention said. “I told the players that I’m horrible with speeches after loses, especially when guys’ careers are over.”
Watson and Sullivan each had 10 points for the Pilots.
Portland’s last WCC Tournament victory came in 1996, when it won the tourney under then-coach Rob Chavez. The Pilots have had nine consecutive losing seasons.