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West basketball notes: Interesting ending to Gonzaga-LMU game
Men’s basketball » UVU leading WAC in first season in the league
First Published Jan 21 2014 01:53 pm • Last Updated Jan 21 2014 11:23 pm

January has not been kind to Loyola Marymount after the Lions started West Coast Conference play with home wins over BYU and San Diego in late December.

But coach Max Good’s depleted squad hasn’t stopped trying, or fighting.

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Looking to snap a five-game losing streak against league-leading Gonzaga on Saturday, the Lions took a 52-50 lead with just over 14 minutes remaining on a fast-break layup by Evan Payne. But the Bulldogs put together a 20-5 run and cruised to an 82-72 win.

The final score was significant — to some folks.

Gonzaga’s Drew Barham was casually trying to dribble out the clock in the last seconds when an LMU player stole the ball and threw it downcourt to Payne for a meaningless dunk. However, the dunk came after the buzzer and was waved off by the officials.

Apparently, Barham was not happy with Payne’s showboating at the end of the game, and said something about it to the freshman after the dunk. Payne took exception, and a little bit of pushing and shoving ensued. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and no punches were thrown.

By the way, Gonzaga was favored to win the game by 9.5 points, if you keep track of that sort of thing at home.

Or in Las Vegas.

UVU leads the WAC

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Sure, Utah beat UCLA on Saturday and has the state’s best record at 14-4. And BYU (13-7) has reeled off five straight wins and has the state’s best RPI, 38.

But the Beehive State team with the best chance of getting to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year just might be Utah Valley University. The Wolverines are leading the Western Athletic Conference with a 4-0 record, and the WAC has automatic-qualifying access to the tournament.

Coach Dick Hunsaker’s squad pulled off a miraculous 52-51 win on Sunday at Seattle. With UVU (10-7) trailing by a point with less than five seconds remaining, Mitch Bruneel came up with a loose ball, and was fouled. He made two free throws with 2 seconds left for the win.

UVU hasn’t played preseason favorite New Mexico State yet, and won’t until Feb. 1, but the fact that it leads the league at this juncture shows the Wolverines can compete at this level. The winner of the conference tournament March 13-15 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas will represent the WAC at the NCAA tournament.

Oregon’s fade

The Oregon Ducks apparently used up all their luck when they edged BYU and Utah in overtime in December and early January. Since beating the Utes 70-68 by forcing overtime with a last-second steal and basket on Jan. 2, Oregon has lost four straight games, including Sunday’s surprising 80-72 loss at rival Oregon State. Two of those losses — to Washington and Stanford — came at Knight Arena, where the Ducks edged BYU 100-96 on Dec. 21.

Once 13-0 and ranked No. 10 in the country, Oregon is suddenly considered an NCAA Tournament bubble team with games at Washington and Washington State this week.

Lighting it up

Salt Lake City’s Nicholas Paulos, a 6-foot-7 junior forward at North Carolina-Greensboro, shot his way into the NCAA record books on Saturday in a 93-82 loss to Davidson. Paulos, who prepped at Olympus High, went 9-for-9 from the 3-point line, setting a school and Southern Conference record for 3-point accuracy in a game. It was one of the five-best 3-point shooting games in NCAA Division I history.

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