On the road again…

Loyola Marymount’s Adom Jacko put up a good fight against Saint Mary’s Thursday night. Unfortunately, none of his Lion teammates matched his enthusiasm so LMU fell to the Gaels 73-48.

Jacko wasted no time announcing his presence, blocking Calvin Hermanson’s attempted three-pointer just 45 seconds into the game. That was one of two blocks credited to him, although Gael fans screamed that the second was actually a goal tend on a Hermanson driving lay-up.

Nevertheless, the chiseled, 6-8 Jacko, his dreads falling midway to his shoulders, totaled 21 points on 9-11 shooting, sank all three free throws awarded him, pulled down eight rebounds and got a steal on top of his two blocks. The steal was a thing of beauty, as Jacko figured out a way to stop the Gaels patented pick-and-roll offense — jump high and intercept the intended lob before it gets to the cutter.

He presented more problems for the Gaels than any other post man, or men, they have faced this year, and it is an interesting question why. Is Jacko a true phenomenon, a muscular, quick-jumping dervish with a nice touch out to 10 feet, or were Gael bigs Jock Landale and Dane Pineau a step slow?

You could make a case either way, as Landale and Pineau did seem to be back on their heels against Jacko. They never bodied him as they have done successfully to a host of talented big men this year, always jumping to defend his shot just after he released it. It didn’t work.

Regardless of the answer to that question, no one else on Mike Dunlap’s revised roster was too involved in the proceedings. Take away Jacko’s 21 points and it leaves just 27 for the other 10 Lions who made it to the floor — an average contribution of 2.7 points. The Gaels’ overall defense was excellent, holding LMU to 36% shooting and keeping the opposition score below 50 points for the second straight game (San Diego managed 46). It is hard to determine who among the Lions is going to help them rise too far out of the WCC cellar.

Offensively speaking

The LMU game was not a model of efficiency as the preceding tussle with San Diego was. After a sluggish first half, the Gaels bounced back with a better second-half effort but didn’t come close to the 60% field goal shooting they managed against San Diego. Maybe that’s the price of playing in a new environment after enjoying 11 home games out of thirteen before heading to West LA. It did not seem to be a crippling weakness, as Randy Bennett’s team seems to realize that defense is the heart of their identity.

Pineau and Landale fell to a combined 20 points and 10 rebounds after successive games of 28 and 11, but their individual stats were fine. Landale was 4-5 from the field and sank all four free throws to total 12 points, and Pineau went 4-8 and totaled 8. After seeming to get on top of his free throw stroke in earlier games, Pineau bricked two attempts Thursday night. That is something he will have to work on continually to remain consistent, while Landale’s free throw shooting might be made into an instructional video.

Emmett Naar may be emerging from his four-game three-point funk, as he made two of five from distance. That’s the first time he sank more than one three-pointer since going one-for-six against Cal. Naar seems to realize that the only way to get back to his blistering early pace is to keep shooting, and he was determined to make multiple attempts against the Lions. He kept up his excellent play in the lane, making two of three lay-ups to lead the Gaels in scoring with 15 points.

Hermanson chipped in 12 points of his own, including two more power drives to the hoop. He was denied perhaps his most elegant effort by a Jacko block, although it did seem to court-side eyes that the ball was nearly inside the cylinder before Jacko arrived to swat it away. That aside, Hermanson needs to keep being aggressive in the paint, as it complements his three-point shooting and makes him considerably more dangerous.

The southern California road trip continues Saturday with a matinee engagement in Malibu against Pepperdine, the Team Who Would Be Master of the Gaels. If Bennett’s team was a little off against LMU — perhaps the residue of a weak opponent and a lifeless environment — the prospect of playing the Waves should enliven them.

Most outside experts picked Pepperdine to finish higher in the WCC than the Gaels, and that fact did not go unnoticed in Moraga. Notwithstanding that pre-season praise, Pepperdine has underwhelmed so far this year, barely squeaking by a weak Pacific squad 81-76 on their home court Thursday night.

The Gaels topped the Waves in Malibu last year, and will be extremely interested in repeating that effort Saturday afternoon. I wouldn’t bet against it.

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