Feb. 19, 2004
Niagara, N.Y. - In a homecoming of sorts, freshmen Michael Tuck and Shane James led Loyola to the brink of victory at Niagara on Thursday night. The Canadian natives combined for 21 points in a 69-62 loss to the Purple Eagles.
The game began with Loyola taking an early 6-0 lead. Niagara scored the next eight, but Lindbergh Chatman's three-pointer midway through the first period gave the 'Hounds an 11-8 edge.
"It was great to play in front of family and friends who haven't seen me play college ball yet," says Tuck. "I was juiced from the start of the game."
Niagara calmed the Loyola faithful with a10-0 run to open a 10-point margin with 8:45 remaining in the first half. The Greyhounds would chip away at the lead and with James' three-point basket at the three-minute mark, Loyola trailed 30-27. Charlie Bell cut the margin to one point with a steal and lay-up, but Niagara, with 11 second-chance points, led 33-21 at halftime.
"We felt good at halftime," says James. "But we've been there before and we knew we needed a good second half to compete."
James was ready to compete and quickly turned a two-point deficit into a three-point lead with a bucket, a steal and a conventional three-point play. Tuck increased the lead when he converted a steal of his own into a fast-break dunk. Niagara responded with a run of its own, but five straight points from Chatman gave the 'Hounds a 45-42 lead with 12 minutes left in regulation.
"It's taken me a while to get to playing form," says Tuck in reference to an early-season injury. "Tonight I really felt like I had my legs."
The Greyhounds took their biggest lead of the night when Bell converted a three-point play from the foul line, making the score 50-43 with 10:32 on the clock. The Purple Eagles took the lead back at 7:30 and pushed their advantage to 56-51 before Bernard Allen ended a 7-0 run with jumper from the top of the key.
Niagara moved ahead by eight points, but once again, Loyola responded. Sparked by Tuck's baseline drive and dunk, the Greyhounds pulled within three points of the Eagles. Niagara, however, knocked down its foul shots down the stretch and escaped with a seven-point victory.
"I feel like we finally put two good halves together," says Bell. "Unfortunately, things didn't go out way down the stretch."
Bell led the Greyhounds with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Tuck added a career-high 11 points and five rebounds while James finished with 10 points, five assists and three steals.
In a game much closer than the final seven-point margin, Loyola had more points in the paint (26-24), more points off turnovers (17-13) and more bench production (13-5). The Greyhounds, now 1-14 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), play at Canisius this Saturday. The Greyhounds and Golden Griffins tip at 2 p.m.