Thursday, November 17, 2016

UConn Huskies 68, LMU Lions 65

Courtesy of Benita West/T.G.Sportstv1

LMU Falls Short of Upset against UConn 68-65

LOS ANGELES -- The noise in Gersten Pavilion reached a deafening level as the sequence of play had drawn the crowd to this moment. Thirsty for a victory over a national powerhouse, they watch as the spinning ball, freshly released from point guard Brandon Brown's finger tips, clank off the right side of the rim. With that, the energy was sapped from the building as the Loyola Marymount University Lions (1-2) fell short of victory to the University of Connecticut Huskies (1-2) 68-65 Thursday night.
This was the first all-time meeting between the two schools. It was also the first time a nationally-ranked or powerhouse school was scheduled to play in Hank's House since 2012. UConn was a preseason top 20 team by the major polls but opened the season with two losses at home to small schools similar to LMU. The Lions were looking to give the Huskies their third loss.
Gersten Pavilion was full of energy throughout the evening as the fans were treated to a hard-fought contest by both sides. After the game, UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie acknowledged that it was a relief to come out on the winning side of a grind-it-out game.
"This is what it's all about," said Ollie. "Nobody said it was going to be easy. We have a tough team who believes in one another. We want to build character from this."
The scoring began with a two-handed flush by Huskies' Terry Larrier, who led the Huskies with 14 points. It appeared that the visitors were ready to assert themselves and cruise on the night but Lions' guard Steven Haney answered back with a three pointer from the top of the arc. After a UConn free throw, big man Stefan Jovanovic added two buckets for the home team to take an early 7-3 lead. The lead changed back and forth in the first 10 minutes. Overall, the lead changed 16 times with seven ties in this contest.
Midway through the first half, LMU reserve-guard Kelvin Amayo stole the ball the Huskies and followed up with a breakaway tomahawk jam that gave the Lions an 18-15 lead. Amayo finished with a game-high 18 points.
"All of us came in and worked hard," said Amayo. "I just took coach's advice and let things come to me."
However, that lead was short-lived as UConn went on a 17-4 run to open up a 10-point lead. Most of the output was produced by guard Alterique Gilbert who either scored or assisted on all the field goals during that run. Gilbert collided with an LMU player while chasing a loose ball around the 3-minute mark, it resulted in a dislocated shoulder and he wouldn't return for the rest of the game.
The Lions took advantage of the Huskies without its spark plug and ended the half on the 12-2 run to tie the game at 34-34. The second half opened up with an 8-2 LMU run. They did it the same way the first ended, by applying pressure defense and forcing turnovers. The Lions would be in the driver's seat for majority of the way until eight minutes were left in the game, where it was tied at 54.
"We had too many turnovers on their pressure," Ollie said. "They got into passing lanes and got disruptive."
The team exchanged pairs of makes after the 8-minute timeout. UConn's point guard Jalen Adams scored a layup, LMU answered with a three from Haney, then a UConn layup by Larrier, a Amayo free throw was mixed in then his teammate Buay Tuach scored what would be LMU's final field goal of the game. The Huskies prevented the Lions from making a shot in the final 3:50 of the game; they only added two free throws later.
LMU had plenty of chances to win the game at the end but UConn buckled down and made stops when they needed to and made it difficult for the home team to execute any plays down the stretch. Down by three with under 10 seconds, Haney had the ball on the left sideline but was trapped by the Huskies and turned the ball over. Even then, the Lions were still given a final reprieve as Adams missed the front end free throw of a one and one.
The Lions pushed the ball down the right side of the court and found Brown with a wide-open look. Maybe had he known that he still had time to take aim, the outcome could have been different. What we do know is the Lions should grit and battled a team, who is perennial national-title contender, to the end. That should give them hope as they enter West Coast Conference play. The Lions next game is November 25 as they host Portland State.

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