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West basketball notes: Loyola Marymount crashes WCC Big Three's party

Published January 24, 2012 12:12 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Don't count out Loyola Marymount

The supposed Big Three in the West Coast Conference men's basketball race have some company, and this outfit has shown it isn't opposed to doing a little party crashing. The BYU Cougars, for instance, know all about that.

While No. 21 Saint Mary's, perennial league champion Gonzaga and BYU still sit at the top of the WCC standings, Loyola Marymount has pulled off the most impressive league win to date, stunning BYU 82-68 in Provo last Thursday.

Remarkably, the Lions (5-2, 12-8) are 5-0 on the road in the WCC, 0-2 at home. Their next four league games are at Gersten Pavilion, beginning Thursday when they play host to league-leading Saint Mary's. BYU coach Dave Rose said a big key for LMU was getting forward Ashley Hamilton back from injury. His presence makes it more difficult to handle leading scorer Drew Viney.

There's something about Saint Mary's

While LMU has had the toughest schedule to date in the WCC, Saint Mary's has had the easiest, having played five of its eight league games at McKeon Pavilion, including the Dec. 29 walloping of BYU (98-82) and the Jan. 12 crushing of Gonzaga, 83-62.

But the 19-2 Gaels' national ranking and fortitude will be tested this week, as they travel to LMU on Thursday and then BYU on Saturday.

"I am very cautious going into this back side of the league," St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett told ESPN.com. "We know what we're getting into. Our guys know. It's going to be tough. We will find out" how tough they are.

The Gaels also have to play on the road in a Bracket Buster game, most likely at Creighton or undefeated Murray State on Feb. 17, 18 or 19. Those matchups will be announced Jan. 29.

Powerless Pac-12?

When BYU pounded Oregon 79-65 back on Dec. 3 at EnergySolutions Arena, after having led by more than 20 points for a lot of the game, it didn't appear as if that would eventually be the Cougars' most impressive win of the season. But things have changed.

Oregon (15-5, 6-2) is suddenly tied with California for the Pac-12 lead after knocking off the team picked to win the league, UCLA, 75-68 on Saturday in Eugene. E.J. Singler had a career-high 26 points for the Ducks, after netting just 11 vs. BYU nearly two months ago.

With California's four-game winning streak ending at Washington State, the Pac-12 doesn't have a team with fewer than five losses, and national analysts are starting to suggest it may be a one-bid league.

By the way, BYU (17-5) is clearly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but the Cougars can say they have wins over three conference leaders. In addition to Oregon, BYU also beat league-leaders Weber State and Nevada earlier this season by a combined 39 points.

Brown doing it for CU

Remember Carlon Brown? The former University of Utah star had to sit out last season after transferring to Colorado, but he's flourishing in his senior season with the Buffaloes. Brown was the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 9 after averaging 23.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in a sweep of the Washington schools.

The Riverside, Calif., native is averaging 13.4 ppg. for the Buffaloes, 14th-best in the league. He's averaging 14.1 ppg. in league games.

Brown, who left Utah in part because he couldn't get along with then-coach Jim Boylen, never earned Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors.

drew@sltrib.com