Jan. 31, 2008
THE GAME: Loyola enters the game having won five straight while Niagara boasts a modest two-game winning streak after dropping two in a row prior. The Purple Eagles have split their last six games after a six-game winning streak was snapped with a home loss to Siena - a team Loyola defeated by 29 last week on the Greyhounds' home floor. These teams have split the last six regular-season meetings with the home team winning in all six.
THE COACHES: Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos is in his fourth season and is just the eighth coach in Loyola's 98-season history to be on the sidelines for 100 or more games. On Saturday, he became the sixth coach at Loyola to collect 50 career victories and now has a 51-58 (.468) career record. The 1989 Catholic graduate has a 3-4 record against the Purple Eagles. Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich is in his 10th season with the Purple Eagles and has a 173-119 (.592) record. The 1978 La Salle graduate has a 17-3 mark against the Greyhounds.
THE TEAMS: Outside of conference opponents, the only team that appears on the schedules of both teams is Towson and the Tigers collected victories over each. Of the seven "like" games within the league, both teams defeated Manhattan, Marist and Siena at home and won at Fairfield, Manhattan and Saint Peter's. The Purple Eagles won at Iona while the Gaels collected a win over the Greyhounds.
THE SERIES: Niagara leads, 26-14. The Purple Eagles collected two wins in nine days last year, winning the regular-season contest at home in the penultimate game of the season and then advancing to the MAAC Championship Game with a Semifinal win over the Greyhounds in the tournament. Loyola last won at the Gallagher Center on January 18, 1997, but a portion of those games were played in Marine Midland/HSBC Arena.
THE PROGRAM: Loyola is playing its 98th recorded season of basketball this season. The first season was 1908-09 and the Greyhounds have posted a 1106-1139 (.493) all-time record. The College announced recently its plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first season of Loyola basketball November 14-16, 2008.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior guard Gerald Brown sparked a second-half surge as he played every minute after the intermission after sitting out the first half as the Greyhounds won their fifth straight with a 72-54 non-conference win Tuesday at New Jersey Institute. Senior forward Michael Tuck matched his career-high with 23 points to lead all scorers. Loyola used an 18-0 run to grab a 20-5 lead, but the winless Highlanders roared back with a 13-0 stretch to make the score 24-20. Led by Brown, the Greyhounds opened the second half by scoring 17 of the game's next 22 points to seize a 48-30 lead. Loyola's defense held New Jersey Institute to 25.0 percent shooting (16-64), a season low for a Greyhounds opponent. Junior guard Marquis Sullivan scored 13 in a starting role for Brown.
NUMBERS FROM THE STREAK: Obviously, when a team is on a winning streak, there are more positive numbers than negative and Loyola's five-game stretch is no different. The five-game winning streak is the longest since the Greyhounds opened the 2005-06 season with five straight victories. Last year's edition ran off six consecutive wins in the MAAC between January 2 and January 21 and Loyola finished the 1991-92 season with six straight victories to end the regular season at 14-13. Numbers that jump off the page from the last five games are Loyola is outscoring its opponent by 16.6 points per game and outrebounding its opponent by 9.8 boards per outing. The Greyhounds have had assists on 79 of 119 field goals (66.4 percent) while their opponents have assisted just 45 of their 103 buckets (43.7 percent). But the biggest differences have come in the area of shooting. Loyola has made 46.7 percent of its field-goal attempts (119-255), 42.2 percent of its tries from three-point range and 78.9 percent from the free-throw line (97-123). On the other end of the court, opponents are shooting just 35.2 percent from the floor (103-293), 30.6 percent from three (34-111) and 58.6 percent from the charity stripe (58-99).
LOYOLA FINDS JANUARY SUCCESS: One year after the most successful January in school history (8-2), the Greyhounds were just one game below that mark after finishing the month with a 7-3 record after the win Tuesday at New Jersey Institute. The mark this year has offset a 1-4 December record and Loyola climbed above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 after completing play in the Philly Hoop Group Classic in late November.
DEFENSE! DEFENSE!: In holding New Jersey Institute Tuesday night to 25.0 percent from the field (16-64), the Greyhounds recorded its season-low for an opponent's shooting percentage. The previous low was the 29.2 percent from the floor (19-65) shot by Siena in the home win over the Saints two games earlier. The Saints also made just 22.2 percent of their attempts from three-point range (6-27) and opened the game making just one of its first 17 field-goal attempts. Earlier this month, Loyola held Iona to just two field goals during a decisive 28-6 run that spanned 13 minutes over both halves in which the only baskets were a dunk and a layup. The Greyhounds followed that by allowing Fairfield only six first-half field goals in beating the Stags at home for the third straight season.
AND MORE DEFENSE!: Loyola has a stretch of four consecutive games in which it has allowed 60 or less points for the first time since the final four games of the 1996-97 season. In five of Loyola's seven MAAC wins, its opponent has failed to score more than 60 points, including the season-low of 51 scored by Iona, the fewest given up by the Greyhounds since a 65-50 win over North Florida on November 11, 2006. The number was the lowest for a MAAC opponent since Rider scored 50 in a 50-44 win over the Greyhounds on February 21, 2003.
GREYHOUNDS AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS: Loyola is represented in several categories among the nation's statistical leaders. In NCAA-released statistics for games played through January 28, senior guard Gerald Brown is ranked 75th in scoring average and 57th in steals per game, junior guard Marquis Sullivan is ranked 56th in three-point field-goal percentage and 74th in three-point field goals made per game and sophomore guard Brett Harvey is 17th in assist/turnover ratio. In team statistics, the Greyhounds are 16th nationally in free-throw percentage and 62nd in three-point field goals made per game.
TUCK CONTINUING HIS CONSISTENT PLAY: After no games of 20 or more in the first 18 games of the season, senior forward Michael Tuck has topped that number in three of the four since and has reached double figures in six straight. Tuesday night at New Jersey Institute, he matched the career-high he established a week ago Thursday in the home win over Siena with 23, making eight of 12 from the field and six of seven from the free throw line. After making just 11 of 24 attempts (.458) from the free-throw line in those first 18 contests, he has made 19 of 22 (.864) in the last four games. Over those six double-figure scoring efforts, Tuck has averaged 17.0 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 60.7 percent from the floor (37-61) and 52.9 percent from three-point range (9-17).
SULLIVAN EXCELLING OFF THE BENCH: Junior guard Marquis Sullivan has taken to his renewed role off the bench. In 13 games out of the starting lineup, he has scored in double figures nine times, including each of the last five. Now second on the career charts for three-pointers made and attempted behind only Jason Rowe, the Maryland native has torched the nets in Reitz Arena this season. In eight home games, he has reached double digits seven times - scoring nine in the eighth outing - and is averaging 14.5 points while shooting 49.4 percent from the field (41-83) and 50 percent from three-point range (27-54). Fittingly, his final three-pointer against the Saints Thursday night broke the school record for three-pointers by the Greyhounds in a game as they finished with 18 and he followed that by leading all scorers with 23 points in the win at Manhattan. Sullivan was back in the starting lineup Tuesday at New Jersey Institute for Gerald Brown and he scored 13 points, his sixth straight game in double figures.
BROWN LEADS SECOND-HALF SURGE: Kept on the bench for the first half to rest an injury, senior guard Gerald Brown led Loyola's second-half surge Tuesday at New Jersey Institute. Playing every minute after the intermission, he scored 16 points with five rebounds, including making a perfect nine-for-nine from the free-throw line. He scored the 1,000th point if his career at Illinois and then tallied his 1,000th point at Loyola in the home win over Siena, both baskets coming on three-pointers. He now sits 27th on Loyola's all-time list for scoring. The complete list of 1,000-point scorers is listed on Page 82 of the 2007-08 Loyola Men's Basketball Media Guide. In three games against the Purple Eagles in a Loyola uniform, Brown has averaged 27.7 points while shooting 44.1 percent from the field (26-59) and 96.2 percent from the free-throw line (25-26).
HARVEY ADJUSTING TO NEW ROLE: Sophomore guard Brett Harvey has adjusted nicely to his new role as the starter at shooting guard. Moved from the starter at the point seven games ago to make room for freshman Brian Rudolph, Harvey has scored in double figures in five of the seven games and scored nine points with seven assists and no turnovers in a sixth one. He made seven of his 11 shots from the field en route to a career-high 20 points at Fairfield and connected on five three-pointers to equal his career-best in scoring 16 points in the home win over Siena. In the seven games since the move, he is averaging 12.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds while playing 33.7 minutes a game and shooting 46.2 percent from the floor (24-52), 41.7 percent from three-point (15-36), and 77.4 percent from the free-throw line (24-31). He had scored just 19 points in the four games prior to shifting to shooting guard.
RUDOLPH RESPONDS TO STARTING ROLE: Freshman guard Brian Rudolph was moved back into the starting lineup at Fairfield and has responded. Loyola has won six of the seven games since and 10 of the Greyhounds' 12 wins have come with Rudolph in the starting lineup. Against the Stags, he handed out a career-best eight assists and held Fairfield guard Jonathan Han without a field goal until there was 6:42 remaining in the game and Loyola had built an 11-point lead. He played the entire second half in the win over Marist and equaled his career-high with 12 points while grabbing a team-high seven rebounds with five assists. At Saint Peter's, he handed out seven assists and pulled down five rebounds and his only points of the game came in the second half as his three-pointer gave the Greyhounds the lead for good and his two free throws sealed the victory with 8.7 seconds remaining. The 10-point outing in the win over Siena was his fifth double-digit scoring effort this season and he is averaging 7.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists while playing 29.3 minutes a game and shooting 48.4 percent from the field (15-31), 42.9 percent from three-point (6-14) and 81.0 percent from the free-throw line (14-21) in the seven games since returning to the starting lineup.
ISREAL IS PERFECT FROM THE FLOOR: One game after taking just one shot from the floor and not scoring in the win over Siena, senior forward Omari Isreal did not miss a shot at Manhattan as he connected on all three of his field-goal attempts and all eight of his free throws for 14 points. The double-figure outing was his first in seven games. He also blocked two shots and grabbed six rebounds one game after collecting a career-high 14 rebounds in that win over the Saints. His 34 blocks is the sixth-highest season total in recorded school history and he has 55 blocks in 45 career games. He has been impressive in games played at Reitz Arena, averaging 10.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in 17 career home games while helping the Greyhounds to a 13-4 record in those games. This season, he has averaged 9.0 points and 6.3 boards in eight games at Reitz.
FOFANA MAKES HIS PRESENCE KNOWN: It has been a trying two years for senior center Hassan Fofana due to injury. Limited to 16 games last season after injuring his leg, he had not played yet in 2008 after injuring himself at Illinois until last weekend. Working his way back to health, he came off the bench to play 12 minutes against Marist and equaled his season-highs with four points and six rebounds and followed that with two points and two rebounds in 13 minutes at Saint Peter's. Style and pace of the game limited him to just seven minutes in the win over Siena, but he made his only two attempts from the floor for four points and grabbed three rebounds in 13 minutes before fouling out at Manhattan.