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USD players shut out ‘emotional noise’ after Lamont Smith’s arrest

Portland v San Diego

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 03: Head coach Lamont Smith of the San Diego Toreros looks on during a first-round game of the West Coast Conference Basketball Tournament against the Portland Pilots at the Orleans Arena on March 3, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Portland won 60-55. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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SAN DIEGO -- The University of San Diego returned to the basketball court minus its head coach on Tuesday.

Lamont Smith remains on paid administrative leave after being arrested on domestic abuse charges Sunday in Oakland, California, hours after the Toreros defeated the University of San Francisco in their regular-season finale.

The Toreros (18-12), seeded No. 6, open against No. 3 seed BYU (22-9) in the West Coast Conference tournament on Saturday in Las Vegas.

In the wake of his arrest on domestic violence charges, the University of San Diego has placed men’s basketball coach Lamont Smith on administrative leave and initiated an investigation, the school announced Monday.

Smith, a former USD player who is in his third season as the program’s coach, was arrested Sunday for suspicion of domestic violence, assault with force likely to commit great bodily injury and false imprisonment. The woman suffered the injuries in a room at the USD team hotel. She was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Smith, 42, is married with two children.

“Everybody was shocked,” senior forward Cameron Neubauer said about his reaction after hearing of the incident. “It was tough to process, and it took a day or two to let things settle down. It was all over the media, and we’re not used to that.”

Assistant coach Sam Scholl was named to replace Smith as the acting head coach throughout the remainder of the season. The USD human resources department is conducting an investigation into the matter.

The Toreros were riding a high after they produced just their second winning season in 10 years. Then came word about the allegations against Smith.

“Over the last 48 hours there were a lot of emotions about the things that have been going on,” said Scholl, who has never been a head coach at any level. “But we have come together, and it has brought us really close.”

USD split its two games with BYU this season, winning the last matchup 75-62 on Feb. 17. The Toreros have to prevail again by distancing themselves from the distraction caused but their coach’s arrest.

“Our guys have to be able to keep their blinders on for Saturday because there is a lot of emotional noise,” Scholl said. “But you only get four chances in your career to play for an NCAA tournament bid, so we are focused on taking advantage of that opportunity.”

It won’t be easy.

“It’s a difficult situation; I was shocked along with everyone else,” junior guard Olin Carter III said. “I know it’s a hard time for everybody, but I’m just trying to get us ready for Saturday against a hard team in BYU. That’s going to be a tough game.”