March 3, 2007
Bridgeport, Conn. - Senior forward Josko Alujevic's three-pointer with 3:30 remaining in the game gave Loyola its first lead of the second half and then grabbed two defensive rebounds and made all four free throws inside the final 29 seconds to pace Loyola to a 76-72 victory in the Quarterfinal Round of the 2007 MAAC Championship Saturday night at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
The win puts the third-seeded Greyhounds into the Semifinal Round Sunday night at 8 o'clock against No. 2 seed Niagara. It is the first trip to the MAAC Semifinals for Loyola since 1998 and the first win in the MAAC Championship since an opening-round victory over Fairfield in the 2001 Championship. Loyola improved to 18-12 win the win while the Stags fell to 13-19.
"This feels great," Alujevic stated after the game. "It is my first tournament win after five years and it feels even better when you do something to help make it happen."
Loyola trailed for the entire first half by as many as eight points before a 22-13 spurt over the final 11:18 was capped off by the first three-point attempt and successful conversion of the season by junior forward Omari Isreal as the shot clock was winding down with seven ticks remaining to give the Greyhounds a 34-33 lead at the intermission.
Fairfield eliminated whatever momentum Loyola took to the locker room by scoring the first basket of the second half and gradually building a seven-point lead at 54-47 with 13:03 remaining on a three-pointer from Michael Van Schaick.
Down six with 7:57 remaining at 62-56, the Greyhounds capped a 12-4 run with Alujevic's three-pointer to seize the lead for good at 68-66. Alujevic grabbed a defensive rebound and the Greyhounds ran the shot clock all the way down before junior guard Gerald Brown drained a three-pointer from the right wing to give Loyola a 71-66 lead with 2:36 left.
Stags guard Jonathan Han converted a lay-up and Anthony Johnson made one of two free throws around a Loyola turnover to pull within 71-69 with 43 seconds left. Fairfield rebounded the miss from the foul line and called time out. Van Schaick misfired on a three-pointer that would have given the Stags the lead and Alujevic was fouled on the defensive rebound.
The senior forward converted both shots to give Loyola a two-possession lead at 73-69 with 27 seconds left. Following a missed lay-up by Fairfield, Alujevic again grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws to build the lead back to six at 75-69. Fairfield's Herbie Allen connected on a three-pointer with 10 seconds remaining and Brown made the second of two free throws to clinch the victory.
"We just stepped it up at the end and closed the game out," Brown said. "We won the last four minutes and we just kept saying in the huddle that if we did that, we would win the game. We never quit."
The conference's leading scorer, Brown led Loyola with 20 points with four rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Marquis Sullivan finished with 16 points, 11 of those in the second half. Alujevic chipped in with 14, including making both of his three-point attempts, and Isreal did not miss a shot during the game, making all four of his field-goal attempts and all four of his free-throw tries for 13 points.
Van Schaick led all scorers with 24 points and added five assists. Freshman Greg Nero scored 15 and Johnson added 13.