I haven’t been into reporting scores of preseason games because those contests, aka glorified practices, don’t usually mean much.
But today I went to an exhibition game that meant and showed a whole lot: Loyola Marymount soundly beat The Master’s College, 88-58.
It was significant because new LMU Coach Charity Elliott has clearly set a different tone. The Lions did a lot of running on offense, and inflicted high-pressure defense. Players showed out big who didn’t used to play much. All saw floor time in today’s game, and all but one scored.
And where their former coach used to criticize them from the sidelines and yell at them during timeouts, Elliott could be seen clapping her hands in encouragement at points throughout the game. At one point, when the offense did something she especially liked, Elliott turned and walked all the way down the bench, halfway crouched down so she could look in her player’s eyes, emphatically talking. Then she stood up and turned back to the floor and applauded the athletes still playing.
Senior guard/forward Alex Cowling, who needs to be on a WNBA team next summer, lead LMU with 22 points and eight rebounds. Point guard Hazel Ramirez added 15 points and seven assists, while Melinda Gomez chipped in 12. (Cowling was first-team all WCC conference last year, and broke the school scoring record).
Junior center Alexis Love and sophomore Emily Ben-Jumbo, who were relegated to the deep bench last year, started and grabbed six and eight rebounds, respectively. Gomez and sophomore forward Ashley Lovett also saw sporadic time last year, and today stepped up to make key contributions, as Lovett had six points and four rebounds.
Another set of bright spots were sophomore guard Taylor Anderson (six points, seven assists), junior forward/center Mackenzie Kerins (four points, four rebounds), and freshman guard/forward Chelsea Barnes (six points, four rebounds).
Sure, the Lions still have work to do. They got off to a slow start and didn’t start to put away their opponents until the second half. They are getting good looks which means the plays are working, but sometimes they found themselves out of position under the basket (too low), which resulted in missing close shots.
Their confidence is still growing, as they hesitated at times. But they were loose on the court and are letting the game come to them. By the end of the second half, there were a few superstar plays.
It seems that the previously-downtrodden Lions have remembered why they each started playing the game in the first place: the starters came on to the court for tip off smiling. They are having fun, and it’s fun to watch.
Other college news:
Lots of youth is on tap for Florida.
Senior Taylor Wurtz is leading the way at Wisconsin.
UNNC senior forward Jenn Hailey’s mission is to own the boards.