Early Lohner surge pushes BYU men’s hoops past LMU 79-59

Caleb Lohner takes flight against LMU. (Decker Westenburg)

Early Lohner surge pushes BYU men’s hoops past LMU 79-59

Caleb Lohner has said that his life’s goal is to learn Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” solo on guitar.

While it may take an eternity to reach Van Halen status, Lohner managed to do some erupting of his own Thursday night by posting a timely double-double against Loyola Marymount in a 79-59 BYU victory.

Often BYU’s “thermometer” on offense, Lohner raced to eight points and five rebounds on perfect shooting in the game’s first seven minutes to spark the Cougars to an early, commanding lead they would maintain for the entirety of the contest.

“Caleb always has an impact,” head coach Mark Pope said. “He’s on a run right now. He’s playing elite-level basketball.”

After dropping five of the past seven contests, BYU’s NET rating and tournament resume desperately needed a convincing victory to merit any possibility of dancing in March. Lohner and company delivered with the Cougars’ fourth 20-point victory of the year, along with their first Marriott Center triumph since Jan. 22 against Portland.

“This is life or death for us,” Lohner said. “We really need to keep making statements. I just want to help Alex and Te’Jon keep playing basketball.”

Shooting an impressive 54% from the field, BYU manufactured 23 assists and made a living underneath for 52 paint points. Lohner finished the night with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Alex Barcello posted nine points, seven rebounds and a season-high seven assists.

“He just does what’s needed,” Pope said of Barcello. “We’re all spoiled. He had a couple of passes today that were unbelievable.”

Te’Jon Lucas led the Cougars with 14 points while dishing out six assists, and the trio of Gideon George, Fouss Traore and Atiki Ally-Atiki combined for 30 points and 11 boards.

“A few weeks ago we went through this period where we were all doubting…the way everybody’s responded, I’m just proud,” Lohner said. “I’m gonna rock with these dudes until we can’t rock anymore.”

Pope and Lohner both proclaimed following the win that BYU has still yet to play its best basketball of the season, but time is running out to do so.

The Cougars face Pepperdine this Saturday in the WCC regular-season finale before heading to Las Vegas for the most difficult conference tournament in years. BYU could still possibly schedule another spontaneous Quad One matchup and is currently exploring such opportunities for the upcoming week, needing all the help it can get to gamble into an at-large tournament bid.

“We think we’re finding ourselves and we’re trying to play as many games as we possibly can,” Pope said.

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