Gersten Pavilion was packed with students Monday night for LMU’s home opener against the Life Pacific University Warriors (10-17, 6-12 NIAA last season). The Lions came into the matchup coming off of an 11-18, 3-12 WCC season, looking to show out, despite the graduation of star forward Eli Scott last year.
It was a back-and-forth matchup to start with both teams struggling to put the ball in the basket. But after trailing 10-9 to start the game, the Lions went on a 37-to-11 run to close the half and dominated the rest of the way to secure a 99-49 victory to kick off the season.
Both teams looked a little rusty. Senior Adam Vasquez led the way for the Warriors early on and had nearly half of the team’s points heading into the half. The Lions locked up defensively in the second half, preventing the guard from scoring for the remainder of the game.
Freshman Chance Stephens led the way for LMU in the first half, knocking down three 3-pointers and hyping up the crowd with his hot shooting in his first collegiate endeavor. Another new face, junior transfer Michael Graham grabbed seven rebounds and shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. Graham also let his presence be known to fans with a monster dunk in the first half when the Lions were up 16-10, sparking the Lions domination for the remainder of the half. Senior Keli Leapepe added 9 first-half points while drawing multiple fouls.
In the second half, Junior Jalen Anderson and graduate student Cam Shelton pushed the pace for the Lions, finishing with 8 and 5 assists respectively. Fifth-year Justin Ahrens benefited greatly from LMU’s ball movement, knocking down 3 threes in the second half.
“Being unselfish, giving the ball up, and playing together,” LMU Coach Stan Johnson told reporters when discussing the team’s success on offense, “That’s a fun game to watch and it’s definitely fun to play. The ball has energy and when guys are touching it and more engaged. I think it helps everything we’re trying to do.”
LMU finished the game with 28 assists and grabbed a whopping 60 rebounds. Five Lions finished with double figure scoring in their commanding victory.
LMU will look to continue their strong start Thursday night when they face off against the University of California, Riverside.