basketball, college basketball, Gersten Pavilion, Lions, LMU Basketball, Loyola Marymount Lions, Loyola Marymount University, PCH Cup, Pepperdine Basketball, Pepperdine University, Pepperdine Waves, Waves, WCC, West Coast Conference
A good shot of some action at a LMU – Pepperdine rivalry game; not the game I went to, but a contest played in recent years. Photo courtesy of fl360news.com
CHECKING OUT A CROSSTOWN RIVALRY IN LOS ANGELES THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE UCLA OR USC
For a while, as part of the goal I have for this blog to write about sports, schools, teams and events in SoCal that normally wouldn’t be covered by ESPN, Yahoo, MSN, Bleacher Report, Fansided, or even the local TV networks,
I have wanted to check out SoCal crosstown rivalries outside of USC and my alma mater UCLA, due to the fact that they do exist.
One such rivalry that I have been aware about was the one between two (relatively) small private institutions in Los Angeles’ Westside, Pepperdine University from Malibu and Loyola Marymount University from Westchester, just north of the Los Angeles International Airport.
Those two schools have been playing each other in sports for several decades, but because they are (relatively) smaller compared to UCLA and ‘SC and they don’t have football programs, they are not nationally known.
Since LMU is pretty close to my house – closer than UCLA is – I thought it would be a good idea to check out the marquee sport that those Lions and Pepperdine’s Waves battle in twice a year – basketball.
Gersten Pavilion, home to Loyola Marymount University’s Basketball and Volleyball teams, both men’s and women’s. Photo by pinterest.com
So this past Saturday I set out to the LMU campus to not only see the 168th meeting between the Lions and Waves in men’s basketball, but also to get a feel of the atmosphere on LMU’s campus on the big occasion.
Now I must state – and not sugarcoat – that as far as the records of the two teams, well…
Let’s just say that it’s not exactly North Carolina vs Duke or even the Bruins vs the Trojans, as with LMU and Pepperdine being a combined 11-38 and taking up the bottom two spots of the West Coast Conference going in, with the Waves being a ghastly 4-21 while the Lions were 7-17,
No berths to the Big Dance, aka the NCAA Tournament, was at stake in this 168th meeting between these two programs, nothing on the line save for bragging rights and points toward the PCH Cup, a competition much like UCLA’s and USC’s Gauntlet in that points are awarded between LMU and Pepperdine in all the sports they play against each other, with the winner earning glory at the end of the school year.
Which made me look forward to this game that much more as it would be a match of two teams playing for pride.
Which are often the most entertaining.
A shot of Iggy, LMU’s mascot, and members of the Lions’ cheerleading squad from last year. Photo courtesy of twitter.com
All right, let me describe my experiences at LMU and the PCH Cup hoops contest…
I got to the Loyola Marymount campus to find that they were having a special pre-game occasion, as it was Parents Weekend, with a large numbers of moms and dads milling around with their Lion students partaking of the various food trucks parked on either side of the main quad and bouncy houses for the kids, sitting down at the various tables.
I got to talking to members of “The Cage”, LMU’s student spirit group that fills the student section at basketball games and other contests where their Lions are involved, at one of the booths, and I was impressed with their passion for their maroon and navy blue-clad athletes.
As well as the replica basketball jersey and t-shirts being offered to students who joined their organization.
As I was with “Iggy”, LMU’s lion mascot, and the LMU cheerleading squad when I chatted with several of their members, as well with a few of the parents of various students.
They were all quite nice and helpful in my trying to learn about the rivalry they have with Pepperdine and LMU’s sports atmosphere, showing me the “L” sign they make with their thumb and first two fingers and their “L-M-U” cheer, though (being a former UCLA marching and varsity band member and a current member of the UCLA Alumni Band) I was disappointed that the school has no pep band at their games, but a DJ that spins tunes.
Before long it was high time for me to head on over to the home of the Lions, Gersten Pavilion, where I had been to once before a few years ago.
Highlights from LMU’s 68th win over Pepperdine in their history, a 85-79 triumph in the latest edition of this basketball rivalry. Courtesy of YouTube.
Here are my impressions of Gersten and the game between LMU and Pepperdine…
I began the game by sitting in the upper section, which being that Gersten Pavilion is considerably smaller than UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion – with a capacity of 4,156 it is a third of my alma mater’s arena – were good seats as I got a nice view of the court and was certain that I wouldn’t get a nosebleed.
As the Lions and Waves were warming up on the court, I remembered an essential component to my experiencing – getting a program.
When I got to the marketing table selling the crucial info I needed for the game, I got to talking to one of the young ladies manning such booth, who also happened to be a member of LMU’s women’s soccer team and, like the other Lion students was a nice young lady who was graduating in May and had a good career plan mapped out.
Once I returned to my seat and the national anthem was sung quite impressively by a guy who was simultaneously painting a picture of the Marines landing on Iwo Jima, as the game commenced members of the men’s and women’s rowing teams sat around me.
Like all the other LMU students they were nice, but as a middle-aged guy wearing a blue UCLA jacket, I stuck out like a sore thumb, so I moved to another part of the stands.
One significant thing I noticed during the game as the fact that the number of Pepperdine fans rooting for their Waves at Gersten were very few; just a handful of (apparently) team parents sitting behind Pepperdine’s bench, a small number of fans sitting on the other side, and that was it!
It was surprising to me at first, but when I remembered that their navy blue and orange-clad team had only four wins on the season to that point, I ceased to feel that way.
Another shot of Iggy, showing his patriotism in front of the LMU campus. Photo courtesy of odyssey.com
As For The Game Itself…
It turned out to be a good, competitive affair, and LMU put on a good show as the cheerleaders and dance team performed routines and there were several fan contests on the court during the time outs, including a free throw contest and a guy who would have won $25,000 if he had made a half-court shot.
The halftime festivities were very cool, as Bernie Sandalow, LMU’s answer to Vin Scully, was honored for his decades of announcing Lion sports, and the basketball team from 1978-88, which featured Lion hoop legends Bo Kimble and the late Hank Gathers, who tragically died on that same Gersten Pavilion court during a game in 1990 and who I remember well as Hank and Bo were both my age, were honored.
The current LMU and Pepperdine squads were going at it, the Lions intent on getting revenge for losing to the Waves a few weeks before on a last second shot in overtime.
Both teams played hard, LMU eventually gaining the upper hand as behind six three-point baskets from their senior guard Steven Haney, Jr. and a double-double – 16 points and ten rebounds – from their 7′ 3″ center Mattias Markusson, the Lions got their revenge with a 85-79 win; me being one of the 3,150 fans who saw that affair.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I had a good time.
I found myself telling various LMU folks that I was planning on trying to see UCLA take on the Lions in baseball this coming spring, and the next time LMU ventured to Westwood to take on my Bruins in hoops, I would at least try to be there.
This LMU-Pepperdine rivalry is a good one.
It’s not quite as intense as UCLA-USC as there are no brawls between the two schools’ students and fan bases and no one paints the other school’s statues in their school color like Trojan students did to the Bruin bear in 2016, or does any other pranks like that, but a good rivalry nonetheless.
Overall, it was quite the learning experience and I was glad I went.
Thanks to LMU for showing me a good time.
Pepperdine’s Matthew Atewe going for one of his several dunks during this past Saturday’s game vs LMU.