The women’s basketball team capped off their regular season on Saturday, falling to the No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-3, 16-2 WCC), 68-58 in Spokane. With the loss, the Lions drop to 17-13 this season and 10-8 in the West Coast Conference (WCC). LMU’s 10-8 record earned the squad a five-seed in the WCC Tournament, which begins on Thursday, March 7.
After starting the season 5-1, including a loss to Northern Arizona on Nov. 24 by just one point, LMU won only two of their remaining six non-conference games before beginning conference play. The Lions’ losing woes seemed to continue as they began conference play at 4-5 before the team turned it around to finish the season 6-3.
The team’s record dipped slightly from last season’s, in which the program finished 19-10, 11-7 in the WCC, to earn them fourth place in the regular season standings. The Lions fell in the quarterfinals of the WCC Championship to the five-seeded San Francisco Dons, 89-76.
The team saw a number of stars emerge this year. Sophomore guard Chelsey Gipson led the team in scoring, averaging 17.1 points a game, second-best in the conference. She also led the Lions in three-point and free-throw percentage at .372 and .769 respectively, making her eighth-best out of all players in the conference in both categories. The Los Angeles native averaged 2.4 made three pointers a game, the most on her team and second-most in the conference this season, to go with 3.2 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.
Due to her strong play this year, Gipson earned a spot on the 10-person All-Conference First Team. Teammate and senior forward Bree Alford earned an Honorable Mention selection.
Alford led the team and conference in rebounds with 9.4 to go along with 8.2 points. Alford notched 7 double-doubles this season and became LMU’s all-time leader in rebounds this year with 982.
The Lions played much of the season without senior leader Gabby Green due to injury. Last season, the guard earned WCC First Team selection and won WCC Newcomer of the Year. For the 16 games Green played this season, the guard averaged 13.8 points, 2.7 steals, 6.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
In her absence, senior guard Andee Velasco saw an increase in playing time. Velasco led the team in assists with 4.6 per game, second-best in the league, and added 5.5 points per game. Sophomore forward Jasmine Jones contributed 12.2 points and 6.2 boards as well.
The team had a number of strengths in the 2018-19 season, including perimeter defense, passing the ball and steals. The team was also strong at offensive rebounding and limiting turnovers. It was the group’s major deficiencies, however that stopped them from asserting dominance in the regular season.
The group had a number of major weaknesses that inhibited their success, a major one being free-throw shooting performance. The Lions ranked last in the conference in free throw percentage at .623, yet they go to the line 644 times this year — most in the WCC and seventh-most in the nation. Despite being so skilled in drawing fouls, the Lions could not fully capitalize on their ample opportunities — especially painful considering the Lions lost six games by 10 points or less, two of which were decided by two points or less.
Another major weakness for the Lions has been simply making shots. The Lions ranked last in the conference in field goal percentage this year at .395. In the team's last nine games, in which the Lions notched six wins, the team improved in their shot selection, shooting .426 from the field and seeing wins come because of it.
LMU has also had issues with defensive rebounding, grabbing just 24.4 defensive boards a game, second-worst in the conference, according to the WCC's website, as well as with blocks, as the team notched just 50 for the season at 1.7 per game, last in the WCC.
As the Lions look toward the West Coast Conference Tournament, they will first face the winner of No. 9 San Francisco and No. 8 Portland after receiving a one-game bye on Friday at noon in Las Vegas. If the team looks to succeed and go deep into the tournament, they must continue to capitalize on the things they do well and fix the glaring issues that have stopped them from achieving success.
This is the opinion of Jameson O'Neil, a freshman English major from Boston, Massachusetts. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.