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Lions visit Gaels in pivotal WCC clash

The 21st-ranked Saint Mary's-CA Gaels put their perfect home record on the line for the final time this season, as they entertain the Lions of Loyola Marymount in a West Coast Conference clash tonight at McKeon Pavilion.

Loyola Marymount is enjoying a solid season, as the team is 16-10 overall and 9-4 in conference. The Lions, who are playing their fourth game in nine days, are coming off a 78-59 loss at Gonzaga, the setback putting an end to their recent four-game win streak. LMU is 8-3 in true road games this year, and the recent loss to the Bulldogs snapped a six-game road winning streak.

Saint Mary's is a stellar 23-3 on the year, 12-1 in WCC action, and the team's 16-0 home record is the best in school history. The only other undefeated home season was in 1958-59 (8-0). The Gaels, who are one of only eight teams nationally to have won at least 25 games in each of the previous four seasons, took out Santa Clara in their most recent outing, 82-67, rebounding from its first loss since before Christmas as it fell to league rival Gonzaga, 73-59, last Thursday.

SMC owns a 77-53 lead in the all-time series with LMU, and the Gaels have won the last 11 meetings, including a 71-64 decision in Los Angeles back on January 26.

Drew Viney scored 24 points and Anthony Ireland tallied 23, but those efforts went for naught as Loyola Marymount suffered a 19-point loss at Gonzaga last Saturday. No other Lion scored more than three points, as the team shot just 39.3 percent from the floor in scoring its fewest points since putting up a mere 58, also against Gonzaga, on January 14. LMU went just 6-of-23 from three-point range and grabbed only 24 rebounds, compared to 37 caroms for the Bulldogs, who finished the game at 51.9 percent field goal efficiency while laying claim to a 17-9 edge in points from the foul line. Viney and Ireland rank one-two on the team's scoring list for the year, netting 16.3 and 15.4 ppg, respectively. Jared DuBois and Ashley Hamilton round out the unit's double-digit scorers with 10.4 ppg apiece, with Ireland serving as the team's primary playmaker (4.7 apg) and Viney its leading rebounder (5.4 rpg). Collectively, the Lions are hitting their field goal attempts at a 42.9 percent clip, netting 70.8 ppg along the way, while permitting 67.8 ppg by holding the opposition to a mere 29.2 percent accuracy out on the perimeter.

Rob Jones logged a double-double consisting of 25 points and 12 rebounds to help push Saint Mary's past Santa Clara last Saturday. In addition to Jones' impressive effort, Matthew Dellavedova was credited with his own double-double as he tallied 16 points and 10 assists, while Stephen Holt chipped in 11 points for the Gaels, who drained 52.6 percent of their field goal attempts, hit 6-of-14 three-point tries and committed a mere eight turnovers. Dellavedova (15.7 ppg, 6.4 apg), Jones (15.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg) and Holt (10.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) are SMC's trio of double-digit scorers on the season, and the team as a whole is generating 76.5 ppg on 47.9 percent shooting, which includes a 36.2 percent showing from beyond the arc. Defensively, the Gaels allow just 61.6 ppg on typical shooting outputs of 42.2 percent overall and 36.3 percent from three-point land. They dominate the glass to the tune of a +7.3 rebounding margin, and they are +1.0 in turnover differential as well.