Jan. 4, 2008
Baltimore, Md. - Fairfield's Anthony Johnson converted a layup from Jonathan Han with 52 seconds to give the Stags the lead and grabbed the defensive rebound on two Loyola attempts to tie or take the lead as Fairfield collected a 69-67 MAAC victory Friday night.
The lead for the Stags was the only one they held in the second half as they battled back from an 11-point deficit with 10:35 remaining to tie the game at 61 with 5:25 left and then again from a five-point deficit with 2:20 remaining, scoring the final seven points of the game with five of those coming from the free-throw line.
"We played hard and competed and the next step for us is to win," fourth-year head coach Jimmy Patsos commented. "It was a tremendous crowd here without the students and a great atmosphere for television. Maybe we lost the game in the first five minutes."
Fairfield opened the game making six of seven three-point attempts to build a 22-14 advantage with 11:29 remaining in the first half. Mike Evanovich did most of the damage, sinking five straight from long range. But Loyola quickly fought back with nine straight points to take a 23-22 lead on an offensive put-back from senior forward Michael Tuck with 8:15 left before intermission.
The first half ended with the Stags scoring eight in a row to take a 35-32 lead at the intermission. The second half opened with three ties before Loyola scored 13 of the next 15 points to take a 55-44 lead when Tuck scored on a layup from senior guard Gerald Brown with 12:28 left. Twice over the next two minutes Fairfield pushed the lead below 10 only to have the Greyhounds answer for its last 11-point advantage on a dunk from freshman forward Isaac Reid off a pass from classmate Brian Rudolph for a 59-48 lead with 10:35 remaining.
Loyola twice had a chance to grab the lead following losing the lead for the first time in the second half. Following a time out, the Greyhounds missed three shots at the basket and Johnson finally secured the rebound and was fouled with 12 ticks remaining. He made the first of a two-shot foul and Loyola senior forward Omari Isreal grabbed the defensive rebound. Senior guard Gerald Brown drove the baseline and kicked the ball to Reid whose three-point attempt misfired and the Stags held the rebound as the final horn sounded.
"The play worked; we just didn't execute it," Patsos said of the last offensive possession. "Our best player had the ball in his hands and we got a wide-open three. It just didn't go down for us."
"A good shot is better than a difficult one," Brown explained about the final sequence. "I had confidence in Isaac; he would hit it in practice. This year is a learning process for him - me being the teacher and him being the student. He's just a freshman and he is going to have many more opportunities to make that shot in his career."
The Greyhounds (5-8, 1-2 MAAC) held a 15-0 advantage in fast-break points and 36-18 edge in the paint. Fairfield was whistled for just six fouls in the second half and Loyola was able to get to the free-throw line just four times and finished the game making nine of 10 attempts from the charity stripe. Conversely, the Stags (4-9, 2-1 MAAC) made 13 of 17 from the free-throw line, including their final five points.
Evanovich led all scorers with 20 points, making six of eight from three-point range, and Han added 13. Loyola placed four players in double figures, led by 16 points from junior guard Marquis Sullivan. Isreal chipped in with 15 points with five rebounds and tied a career-high with four blocks. Brown and Tuck each added 12.
Loyola gets back in action again Sunday afternoon at noon when it hosts Iona.