March 4, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Erik Etherly scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, as Loyola University Maryland pulled away from Siena College for a 70-60 victory in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Semifinals on Sunday evening at the MassMutual Center.
With the win, the second-seeded Greyhounds (23-8) advanced to Monday night's MAAC Championship Game where they will face No. 4 seed Fairfield University (19-13), an 85-75 winner Sunday over top seed Iona College in the other semifinal. The game will be played at 7 o'clock and air on ESPN2.
Loyola will make its second appearance in the MAAC Championship Game since joining the league in 1989-1990. The Greyhounds last appeared in the title match in 1994 when they defeated Manhattan, 80-75, to advance to their only NCAA Tournament.
"This is a special night for Loyola as a school. It means a lot from the support that the school has given this program for us to get to the championship game," Head Coach Jimmy Patsos said. "I have told the team that the journey that they have taken - from high school and AAU, to the practices to the games to this point - have all built up to one game. It's a great opportunity."
Sunday night, the Greyhounds used defensive pressure and consistent shooting to wear down the No. 6 seed Saints (14-17) who needed overtime on Saturday to get past No. 3 Manhattan College in the quarterfinals.
Loyola built a double-digit lead with just under eight minutes to go, and the Greyhounds maintained that for nearly the rest of the game.
Etherly, who registered back-to-back 20-plus point games after scoring 22 on Saturday in a quarterfinal win over Niagara University, was one of four Loyola players in double figures. Shane Walker and Robert Olson each scored 12, and Justin Drummond added 10.
Siena got off to a quick start, going ahead by eight, 14-6 on an Owen Wignot three with 11:50 to play. Walker answered with a three of his own 20 seconds later, but Kyle Downey put Siena up seven with a tip-in at 10:49.
Dylon Cormier made a twisting layup 33 ticks later, starting a 13-2 run that would put Loyola in front for good.
Etherly and Olson each made layups, and Anthony Winbush made one to put the Greyhounds up 17-16. Brandon Walters retaliated for Siena with a basket to give the Saints their final lead before Drummond knocked down a three from the left corner.
Loyola went on to go up seven 61 seconds in to the second half, but Siena came back within three on a Downey bucket at 16:42.
Olson, however, knocked down a three to start a stretch in which the Greyhounds made four threes in 2:30. Cormier and Walker each made shots form beyond the arc, and Olson canned a second at 14:12 to put Loyola up 44-33.
Siena chipped away at the Loyola lead, getting within 49-42 at 8:48 on a Downey layup, but Etherly made a pair of free throws Loyola's next trip down the court to make it a nine-point game.
Owen Wignot missed a jumper at Siena's offensive end, and Loyola used nearly all of the shot clock on the ensuing possession. With time winding down to under three seconds, Etherly's defender gave him space at the top right of the perimeter, and Etherly knocked down the third 3-pointer of his career to put Loyola up 54-42 with 7:38 to go.
Minutes later, R.J. Williams made two free throws to make Loyola's lead 14 with 4:31 to play, and Etherly made 1-of-2 at the line at 4:04 to put the Greyhounds up 15.
Downey led Siena with 17 points, and Wignot added 16. O.D. Anoskie added 13 points, but the nation's leading rebounder (Anoskie averaged 12.8 coming in) had just five boards.
Loyola outrebounded the Saints, 34-25, as Etherly, Olson and Walker each had six.
The Greyhounds matched their season-high with 18 assists. Olson had a career-high six assists, Williams passed out five and Winbush had three.