The West Coast Conference tournament started off with a bang tonight at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. While the top teams in the conference have all earned byes, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine got things started and provided us with some drama we can hopefully expect to see all the way through Monday.
The Lions of LMU took the court as the favorites in this first round match up but Pepperdine wasn't about to sity idly by. The Waves actually lead the game early on thanks to a great individual performance from star guard Keion Bell. LMU stormed back and took a double-digit about ten minutes through the second half. Pepperdine then came back with a flurry of their own but the Lions were able to seal the deal down the stretch with free throws to come away victorious by a score of 87-84. LMU's Vernon Teel led all scorers with 27 points while Pepperdine's Bell finished the game with 25. the Lions now advance to the second round of the tournament where they will match up in a highly anticipated game with San Francisco. Tip off is Saturday night at 6 PM.
Defense was the theme of the late game between Santa Clara and San Diego tonight at the Orleans Arena. The game was tight throughout but the Toreros were able to survive and advance thanks to some balanced scoring and outstanding team basketball.
Santa Clara actually had a chance at the end to tie the game and send it into overtime but their inbounds play with 0.4 seconds remaining failed and sent the Toreros to the next round. USD was paced by senior center Roberto Mafra who finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists in 30 minutes of action. They also got a solid showing from senior guard Brandon Johnson. For the Broncos of Santa Clara, it was once again freshman guard Robert Smith leading the way. Smith put up 16 points tonight for Santa Clara but it just wasn't enough to outlast San Diego. Next up for the Toreros is Eric Reveno and the University of Portland Pilots. That game will tip off at 8:30 PM pacific time.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary's are still waiting in the wings for the winners of Saturday's games. Each match up should be very intriguing as LMU and San Francisco are both teams the Zags have struggled with and Portland is expected to make a serious run at the tournament championship. I don't believe the games tomorrow will be televised but you can stream them all online at WCCSports.com