Gonzaga prepares for ailing Lions
LOS ANGELES – Loyola Marymount coach Max Good was in the middle of a phone interview when he bumped into injured sophomore C.J. Blackwell.
“You’re playing tomorrow (against Gonzaga),” Good told the 6-foot-5, 240-pound forward, knowing full well that isn’t going to happen.
“I’m going to therapy,” replied Blackwell, limited to seven games by what Good called a “hole in his knee.”
It’s been another star-crossed year for Good and the Lions, who have endured an inordinate number of injuries and lost a couple of key transfers in the coach’s five-year run at LMU. When Good’s teams have stayed reasonably healthy, they’ve had solid seasons – 18-16 in 2010, a 15-game improvement from the previous season, and 21-13 last season, despite Drew Viney and Ashley Hamilton missing 22 games with injuries.
“The injury thing is something here every year,” said Good, who has seven scholarship players available. “It is what it is, the fans don’t feel sorry for you and there’s no sympathy from other teams.”
Junior point guard Anthony Ireland averages 20 points per game, second in the conference and 15th nationally. Hamilton is averaging 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds. He’s one of 14 players in school history to surpass 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
But those two are drawing serious defensive attention because there are few other playmakers with the absence of Blackwell, whom Good projected as a 15-point scorer, and guard Chase Flint, sidelined since Jan. 5 with a stress reaction in his left shin. Guard Jarred DuBois, a 1,000-point career scorer, transferred to Utah, where he’s averaging 11.8 points. He was eligible immediately because he’d graduated from LMU.
“He wanted to play the point,” Good said of the position occupied by Ireland. “The irony is he’s not playing point at Utah.”
The Lions (8-12, 1-6 WCC) have shot just 36 percent from the field, including 27.5 percent of 3-pointers, during a four-game losing streak. In the last two games, LMU is 6 of 65 on 3s.
“We’ve played good enough defense and rebounded well enough to win those games,” Good said, “but we’re having trouble shooting the ball. We were one of the better 3-point shooting teams coming into the last 3-4 games. I guess you could argue we’re taking too many 3s but previous to that it was serving us well.”
No. 7 Gonzaga (19-2, 6-0 WCC) will be heavily favored tonight and Saturday at San Diego.
“It’s a challenge mentally and physically,” sophomore guard Kevin Pangos said. “These teams look at us as No. 1 and it’s a chance for them to get back on track so they’re going to come out playing hard. It’s mental because we have to stay focused, but we’re going to come out fighting as well.”