In an aggressive and physical game, the University of Portland women’s basketball team beat the Loyola Marymount University Lions 74-49, extending their winning streak to four. The Pilots are currently third in the West Coast Conference with an overall record of 12-7, their best start since the 2009-10 season.
“The team competed really hard and played with great effort, and really was focused on sharing the ball and playing with each other,” head coach Michael Meek said. “It was a really good 40-minute effort.”
After Portland won the jump ball, a layup by freshman forward Alex Fowler gave the Pilots a quick lead. But the Lions — ranked seventh in the WCC — came out fast, making it tough for the home team to stay ahead. LMU kept Portland on its toes as they made quick passes and put pressure on the Pilots, keeping the first quarter within a small, single-digit margin. Still, the Pilots led.
“We just tried to find our momentum in the game,” sophomore guard Haylee Andrews said. “Seeing how they were defending us and what wasn’t working for us.”
The Lions closed the gap with five minutes left in the second quarter, but that feat only lasted a few seconds as Maddie Mulheim’s rebound won the lead back for the Pilots. Portland ended the first half with a 33-25 lead.
“There were times where they (LMU) got on runs, but we still kept pushing back at them and played our own game,” Fowler said.
The second half of the game saw a regrouped and refreshed team of Pilots. Andrews and Fowler led the team with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Portland brought more energy to the court, putting more pressure on the visiting team and forcing LMU to shoot 38% from the field. The Pilots successfully increased their lead and held it at a double-digit gap through to the end of the game.
“The second half we did a little bit better job at just executing and getting some good shots offensively.” Meek said. “This team’s been awesome about playing together and caring about each other, and I felt like they just kind of regrouped at halftime.”
Although the game wasn’t their cleanest, as Portland finished with a total of 11 fouls next to LMU’s 15, the Pilots proved their capacity to regroup and push ahead. Their success so far is credited to the bond they’ve built with each other as teammates and the shared goal the players have with Meek.
“We’re just having so much fun as a team,” Andrews said. “It’s just so much fun this season, and that’s all you could want when coming to college and playing basketball.”
Although the team’s chemistry has helped them have a strong start in WCC play with a 5-3 conference record so far, the Pilots still have a stacked schedule, heading towards games against teams such as Pepperdine University and Brigham Young University, who’s ranked second in the conference.
“Today’s in the past,” Fowler said. “We have to get ready.”
The Pilots will host the Pepperdine Waves on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m.
Ana Clyde is a senior sports reporter and copy editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.