The University of San Diego Toreros ran into the locker room at halftime, trailing 31-28, expecting a somewhat typical but assertive lecture from head coach Bill Grier. But Grier allowed an individual to precede him in an effort to corral his troops.
One can call it a “pep talk,” as did senior Geno Pomare. Or you can label it a “rear-end chewing” in the same way as Grier saw it. Either way, the halftime discourse of injured point guard Brandon Johnson had its impact as play resumed in the second half.
Playing with greater intensity and resolve, San Diego (16-15) held Loyola Marymount (3-27) to 10 points for the first 16 minutes of the second half, went ahead by as many as 11 points, and prevailed 62-56 at the Orleans Arena in the opener of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
As play transpired in the first half, shades of a Feb. 12 loss in Los Angeles—the Lions' first conference win—seemed to be reappearing.
“We were sloppy (11 turnovers), not aggressive, and the effort wasn't there,” Grier said of last night's first 20 minutes.
San Diego also failed to contain freshman Kevin Young, exploding for 16 first half points, including four dunks.
“We knew we weren't playing hard enough, and after (Johnson) talked to us, we came out with a little more fire,” Pomare said.
6'11" center Roberto Mafra, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half, made his first start alongside the 6'11" Pomare (14 points, 8 rebounds). Both were integral parts of limiting Young to just four points in the second half.
“I've been telling the team, this time of year it's not about how pretty you play, it's all about advancing,” Grier said. “Because you lose and you're done.”
The Toreros advance to today's quarterfinals and a 6:00 pm matchup with Santa Clara. The teams split the regular season meetings with each winning on the other's home court.
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