The challenges of college basketball teams winning on the road are well documented, and it’s epidemic in the Pac-12, where home teams are 33-11. And that takes into account clubs like Utah and USC, which have trouble winning in their own gym.
But there’s an exception to every rule, and that’s by the beach outside Los Angeles. Loyola Marymount has a 5-2 record in the West Coast Conference, and you won’t believe how it got there. The Lions are winless at home, and since New Year’s Eve, have won all five of their league road games.
It would be easy to dismiss the Lions as playing in an inferior league, yadda, yadda. It’s true, the bottom half of the WCC doesn’t bear much resemblance to the Big Ten, and except when the powers like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s come to town, those are often not intimidating venues.
But last week, Loyola went to Provo and stomped a good Brigham Young team, 82-68. They won another one Monday night at Santa Clara, and their five straight league road wins is most at the school since 1988, in the glory days of the late Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble.
The leading scorers are Drew Viney, who transferred out of Oregon during the Ernie Kent regime, and point guard Anthony Ireland, at 15.9 points each. Ireland is a sophomore from Waterbury, Conn.
Viney, a 6-8 forward, has missed much of the season after surgery to correct a stress fracture of the foot, but he’s back now and a force. Ireland, meanwhile, has been a beast, with 25 points against Santa Clara and 27 at BYU, and in his past three road games, he’s 21 of 33 from the field with 73 points.
The Lions (12-8) hit .734 on free throws, and hold opponents to .287 on three-point shooting, which is 18th in the nation. In the non-league portion of their schedule, they beat UCLA and St. Louis.
The WCC has been seen as a three-team race between Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU, but Loyola might have a say in that. We’ll know more this week, when it hosts 20th-ranked Saint Mary’s.