The last time Arizona State (2-0) and Loyola Marymount (1-1) met was Mar. 7, 1980, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils took home the victory and will hope to do so again Thursday night against the Lions.
Although the Lions have 11 seniors on the team, they also have three seniors which they will rely on heavily for production. Redshirt senior Godwin Okonji averaged 4.9 points and 3.8 rebounds two years ago after taking a medical redshirt last season. A 6-foot-8, 234-pound forward, look for Okonji to be a force down low for the Lions. 6-foot-3 guard Ayodeji Egbeyemi is now a graduate student in his final year of eligibility after taking a medical redshirt last season as well. He averaged 10.6 points and 6 rebounds two years ago, putting in at least 10 points in 15 of 25 games played.
Through two games this season, 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Evan Payne has been the star, coming off the bench. He's averaging 22.5 points per game, building on his effort from last season when he averaged 15.5 points per game and was named to the WCC All-Freshman team and set LMU freshman records in points and points per game.
Other notable starters include graduate student Chase Flint at the other guard spot and and 6-foot-9 forward Marin Mornar who is averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 71 percent from the field. The Lions are led by first-year head coach of the program Mike Dunlap, who graduated from LMU and played in the aforementioned game in 1980.
Keys to the game
Challenge every shot:
The lions are shooting 49.5 percent from the field this season, that's an incredibly high percentage. The only way to lower it is by making sure to keep a hand in their face every single shot. Even more important will be to turn and pivot for the block out on the rebound after they go up. Arizona State is very athletic, which can also lead to the urge to leave their feet on shot fakes, the Sun Devils will have to make sure they're the second player to leave the ground to challenge the shot so they don't bite and get burned by a drive to the basket.
Keep them off the free throw line:
One bigger positive for Arizona State so far this season is that no player has been in too much foul trouble. They will have to continue that trend against LMU. The Lions are shooting 77 percent from the free throw line this season so the Sun Devils can't afford to give up any cheap ones because LMU will probably make their shots from the charity stripe.
Don't be so generous:
Herb Sendek said after the Bethune-Cookman loss that part of the issue was players trying to pass almost too much because they were afraid to let the ball stick. LMU probably watched the Arizona State and Bethune-Cookman game film already and it doesn't take a mastermind to figure out the Sun Devils struggled against the zone defense. They've got to work the ball through the high post with Eric Jacobsen and Connor MacDougall to have more success against it. Beat the zone down the floor, take the open shot and maybe try a little one on one and see if Arizona State can just out handle an LMU defender to see if they can get around him.
Matchup to watch:
Evan Payne vs. Tra Holder
Payne is just a sophomore at 6-foot-1 and Holder a freshman at 6-foot-0 so its a battle of the young guns. Holder will have his hands full with Payne who is off to a hot start this season. This is the toughest competition Arizona State has faced this season and it might be up to Holder to keep Payne at bay. Gerry Blakes, who has played some great defense in the first two games, may also get a shot to guard Payne in the early going if Holder can't hold his own. One thing is for certain, the Sun Devils will need to have a much better second half with more contributions from role players to walk away with a win Thursday night.