Los Angeles, CA – The Loyola Marymount Lions will meet the conference clash that marks the season opener for both clubs.
Loyola Marymount underachieved a year ago, going 11-21 and just 2-12 in West Coast Conference play. The good news is that head coach Max Good returns 11 players, including five who have starting experience. Following its short road trip to UCLA, Loyola Marymount will return home to host Middle Tennessee and Harvard next week.
UCLA finished 23-11 last season, going 13-5 in Pac-10 play and beating Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament before being bounced by Florida in the second round. UCLA has a solid core of players returning in 2010-11, including its best two post players and figures to be one of the strongest clubs in the Pac-12. UCLA will host Middle Tennessee next week before taking off for the Maui Invitational later in two weeks.
UCLA leads the all-time series with Loyola Marymount, 15-2. UCLA's last win over Loyola Marymount came in December of 2008, with the Bruins winning 75-44.
Guard Jared DuBois was one of the team's best players two seasons ago, but took a redshirt last year due to injury - his return to the lineup should bolster the backcourt for the Lions. He will be complemented by sophomore point guard Anthony Ireland, who averaged 10.6 ppg and 3.0 apg and proved himself as a floor general in his first year of action. Senior forward Drew Viney is one of the league's best big men, a year after he averaged 17.2 points and 6.6 rebounds as a junior. Forward Ashley Hamilton (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) helps fill out the frontcourt.
The Bruins have a pair of really productive big men returning to the front court in 2011-12 in Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith. Both are physical players who have a knack to score; Nelson led the team in scoring with 13.9 ppg and 9.1 rpg last season, while Smith posted 10.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg and was a member of the all-conference freshman team. Nelson is currently nursing an ankle injury and is listed day-to-day; his status is probable against the Lions. Guard Lazeric Jones gives UCLA a steady ballhandler who can also put up scoring (9.1 ppg and 124 assists in 2010-11), and he should be the glue for UCLA as the season progresses.