LAS VEGAS — BYU has only been in the West Coast Conference three seasons, but its fans knew when to cheer a worthy opponent.
Anthony Ireland's career ended when the Cougars knocked out Loyola Marymount in Saturday's quarterfinals, 85-74.
Ireland retired to the bench with a couple of minutes left. BYU's two student sections and a variety of other Cougar fans gave him a standing ovation along with the Lions fans seated behind the team's Orleans Arena bench.
"I got a little emotional," said the three-time all-WCC player. "I did hear the fans yelling my name, cheering for me. It was just a beautiful thing."
BYU's bench applauded, as well, after Ireland fouled out. And not just because it didn't have to deal with him anymore.
"He's just a terrific player," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
BYU went 5-2 against LMU with Ireland during the past three years, but that doesn't quite do the small point guard justice. The last two years, the 5-foot-9 senior (with lifts in his shoes, jokes Good) has continually been on injury-ravaged teams.
"He does carry more of the burden," said LMU coach Max Good, before going into why Ireland is so beloved throughout the league by referees, opposing coaches and fans. "He's got so much respect throughout our league. He's got modern-day athletic ability and he's a grinder; and a tough little sucker. He doesn't do outrageous stuff that...frankly, makes me sick to watch a lot of games. He has none of that in him. He just plays basketball. He works at basketball."
Ireland made just 4-of-13 shots, similar to his showing in Thursday's first-round rally against Portland. He did make 9-of-10 free throws, an unnerving number for the Cougars because of how easily he seemed to draw a few referees' whistles.
But by the end, the refs weren't getting yelled at by Cougar faithful about Ireland.
"He shows respect to everybody," Good said. "And conversely, he gets respect."
∫Speaking of San Francisco: BYU's Monday opponent, San Francisco, is feeling darn confident in Las Vegas. It's won six consecutive games compared to the Cougars' roll of five.
"I told our guys that we're the best team here, quite honestly," USF coach Rex Walter said. "But you've gotta do it on the floor. I think we have as good of a chance as anyone out here."
∫Another winner: Tyler Haws had good news from back home. His younger brother, TJ, won another state championship for Lone Peak, where Tyler went as well.
"I heard they won," Haws said, breaking into a big smile.
TJ owns the head-to-head, four state titles to two.
"I'm sure he's going to rub it in a little bit. But I'm so happy for my brother," Haws said. "He's had an incredible career at Lone Peak. To win four state championships is pretty special."
∫Oh, for the love of technology: BYU's three assistant coaches sat in the media area, three rows from the court, watching USF-USD before BYU played. But they were also glued to their computers. That's because they were following the high school basketball state championship games being broadcast on the Deseret News website. The Cougars had several future links to the program in the 4A and 5A games.
But they also had a little time to look up from basketball and engage in conversation. LMU's Good greeted Terry Nashif, Tim LaComb and Mark Pope with about eight minutes left in the earlier game, saying hello.
Good regularly raves about Rose and LaComb, who he's known for years since his days as an assistant at UNLV.
∫In case you wondered: The WCC men's games can be bet on in Vegas. But not at the actual Orleans Hotel casino, which is a short walk (or escalator ride) away from the 9,500-seat venue. The contract between the league and the casino won't allow gamblers to have access to the WCC games in such close proximity. They're fair game anywhere else in town, however.
∫Enjoying life: BYU's women's team won its quarterfinal Friday and doesn't play again until Monday. Still, the players and staff watched the other Cougars play.
Center Jennifer Hamson sported shorts and sandals, enjoying the nearly 70-degree weather in town.
"You've gotta get them out with the weather," Hamson said.
BYU, the No. 2 seed, will play No. 3 Pacific. The teams split a regular-season series. Hamson had her nose broken while going after a rebounding during the second half of her team's eventual loss to the Tigers in Provo.
"Just try not to think about it," Hamson said when asked how she's stayed aggressive the last couple of months. "Obviously it was really annoying."
∫Tip-ins: About that 3-point mark for BYU, it had been 577 consecutive games the Cougars made a trey before going 0-for-12 vs. LMU. ...Haws has now scored in double digits in 45-straight games moving him ahead of Jeff Chatman and Russ Larson into fourth place all time. ...Seen in Vegas: Former BYU football star Kyle Van Noy and LaVell Edwards. Coach Rose's wife, Cheryl, sat with reporters for the first time this season as her husband spoke about the outcome.