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Mark Pope Pays Tribute To LMU Great In Advance Of Game Against Loyola Lions

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope thanks the student section following BYU's 100-58 win over UT-Tyler in an exhibition basketball game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

LOS ANGELES, California – BYU’s game tonight against the Loyola Marymount Lions is another big test for the Cougars, as they all are at this point of the season. But sometimes you have to pause and pay respect to the greats that paved paths for the teams today.

That’s what Mark Pope did as he paid a tribute to Loyola Marymount legend Hank Gathers. This upcoming March will mark the 30th anniversary of Gathers’ death when he died during a West Coast Conference Tournament game due to a heart-muscle disorder called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

“I have such vivid memories of that time,” said coach Pope. “I remember Jeff Fryer wearing his sunglasses everywhere afterward and I can still remember exactly Bo Kimble shooting his left-hand free throws in the NCAA Tournament and the epic run they made.

“I can remember the amazing style of play [they had] and it was so different than everything, and all of it was centered around Hank Gathers. What an extraordinary player he was, a competitor, a human being he was. A man among boys like he was that played as hard and with as much as passion as he did, for him to die on the court because his heart was too big…I think it just touched everybody. He carried himself as a human being and a competitor in a way that we all would strive to be like him. An extraordinary human being and a tragic end to his life.”

LMU is working to build a statue for Gathers in front of Gersten Pavilion and is currently raising donations to cover the $250,000 cost.

BYU vs. Loyola Marymount – Game Preview

BYU enters tonight’s game with a 19-7 record overall and an 8-3 record in WCC play. The Lions, on the other hand, have been struggling. The Lions are 8-16 and 2-8 in the league having lost eight of their last nine games.

The last time these two teams met was back on January 4th in Provo for BYU’s first league game of the year. BYU won that game comfortably suffocating LMU to the tune of a 63-38 defeat.

This is a game that BYU should be able to cruise through, but stylistically, Mark Pope feels this Lions team can create mismatches against BYU. Especially with guard Eli Scott who on any given night can take over a ball game.

Since joining the West Coast Conference in 2011, LMU has defeated BYU three times and tonight would be a sizable upset as the Cougars are favored by 11-1/2 points.

Jake Toolson’s injury status

Despite missing practice on Tuesday, Pope said the same day that Toolson would be good to go against the Lions. Pope also noted that Toolson’s ankle injury suffered against Saint Mary’s on February 1st is something they will have to deal with for the remainder of the season.

Trevin Knell returning

Last month, freshman sharpshooter Trevin Knell suffered a broken thumb during shootaround and was sidelined for the past three and a half weeks. Knell returned to practice on Tuesday and is expected to be available if needed tonight at LMU.

Gavin Baxter’s role will grow tonight

Expect more minutes for sophomore forward Gavin Baxter tonight than the three minutes he had on Saturday in the win over USF. Baxter had his no-contact red jersey taken off this week and was cleared for all activities in practice this week. Baxter’s impact will likely be felt in shot-blocking and on the offensive glass tonight and for the final home stretch of the season.

BYU at Loyola Marymount 

Tip: 9 p.m. (MST)

TV: ESPNU

Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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