The LMU men’s basketball team has started off the season on a positive and determined note. No, this is not the usual start that we’re accustomed to that is, near wins slipping away from us or even just getting completely blown out by teams that we face. This new LMU basketball team, led by Head Coach Mike Dunlap, is looking to turn heads on campus and in the WCC conference, and bring LMU back to its great basketball program of years past.
The Lions have started off the season 5-3 with their last win a close, one-point victory over UC Riverside this past Sunday. In this game, the Lions had six different players score in double figures, but UC Riverside shot 55 percent in the first half. With changes at half time, LMU was able to start playing fantastic defense during the second half. This caused Riverside Highlanders to shoot only 35 percent from the field and, by the end of the game, gave LMU a chance to win the game 77-76.
While many students will be studying and stressing about finals this upcoming week, our basketball team is starting a quick, two game road trip that begins against Boise State University at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Looking at trends in their previous wins and losses, there are some areas the Lions must work on to get the win at Boise.
In the last game in particular, Dunlap said, they would have to do three things going up against Boise State.. “One: We can never leave rebounding behind because we are not the tallest team. Two: defensive transition — the stuff that isn’t sexy. Three: continuing to learn how to play off of each other, so that we find other ways to score.”
The Lions, in practice and on the court, have been stressing the need for better rebounding and playing smarter defense. They also need to improve there road record. Junior forward Adom Jacko, who has been a big part of LMU’s success this season, was very adamant about going on the road with the team. “We need to redeem ourselves on the road because we should have not lost last week (to Oregon State) and we need to prepare for it,” he said.
Rebounding and defense are key areas for improvement for the Lions as they prepare to face Boise State. Most people think that basketball is only about scoring, but the way you are able to score and get those opportunities is through playing good defense and winning the rebounding game.
The Lions have struggled with spurts of bad defense or working hard on the boards, but the players recognize this and are determined to work on it.
Freshman guard Munis Tutu, who, in the UC Riverside game had 13 points and six assists, said, “We as a team need to continue to stay together to keep having a good chemistry because even though we are 1-3 (on the road), we still think that we can go into other places and compete and pull out the W.”
Even though Boise State has a record of 5-4, it is never easy playing an opponent in their house. Coach Dunlap explained what problems are presented when facing Boise State, “Well they are an NCAA team, they know how to win and then the third part is the last couple games against Colorado state and Oregon State — those were against good teams in good leagues, and in those games we were going into the half [and] we had a one point deficit and one point lead, so learning how to win in the second half on the road.”
With this confidence coming off a great team win against UC Riverside, the Lions must continue to work together as a team on the offensive and defensive end.