Feb. 5, 2008
THE GAME: Loyola is enjoying its longest winning streak in 16 years, having put together six consecutive victories. The Greyhounds have also won four straight on the road after opening the season with seven straight road losses. Last year's team also won four straight road contests in January. Niagara has lost four of seven after winning six straight in December and early January. The Purple Eagles have lost two of their last three road contests.
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 January 26, he became the sixth coach at Loyola to collect 50 career victories and now has a 52-58 (.473) 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 173-120 (.590) 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 home 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 1107-1139 (.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: Marquis Sullivan connected on three-pointers on four straight first-half possessions to give Loyola a lead it would not relinquish and Michael Tuck reached the 20-point plateau for the fourth time in five games as the Greyhounds won their sixth straight with a 74-62 win at Canisius. The last of Sullivan's three-pointers made him the school's all-time leader in the category and he finished with 15 points. Gerald Brown scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half and Brian Rudolph scored 11 and handed out five assists while holding Canisius' Frank Turner to just seven point on 2-17 shooting. Brett Harvey recorded nine assists with no turnovers and Omari Isreal grabbed a team-high seven rebounds with three blocked shots.
RUDOLPH NAMED MAAC ROW FOR THIRD TIME: Freshman guard Brian Rudolph picked up his third MAAC Rookie of the Week award on Monday, sharing the honor with Canisius' Greg Logins. Rudolph averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 assists while shooting 70.0 percent from the field in leading the Greyhounds to a pair of wins last week. At New Jersey Institute, he scored six points and equaled his career best with eight assists and followed that by scoring 11 points with five assists at Canisius, but more importantly he held Golden Griffins guard Frank Turner to just seven points in 2-17 shooting two days after he had scored a career-high 27 points in a win over Fairfield. His three ROW awards trails only the four honors received by Marist's Jay Gavin.
NUMBERS FROM THE STREAK: Obviously, when a team is on a winning streak, there are more positive numbers than negative and Loyola's six-game stretch is no different. The six-game winning streak is the longest since the Greyhounds 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 six games are Loyola is outscoring its opponent by 15.8 points per game and outrebounding its opponent by 6.5 boards per outing. The Greyhounds have had assists on 99 of 146 field goals (67.8 percent) while their opponents have assisted just 54 of their 122 buckets (44.3 percent). But the biggest differences have come in the area of shooting. Loyola has made 47.6 percent of its field-goal attempts (146-307), 41.0 percent of its tries from three-point range (55-134) and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line (108-138). On the other end of the court, opponents are shooting just 34.9 percent from the floor (122-350), 31.1 percent from three (41-132) and 61.0 percent from the charity stripe (75-123).
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 it was 4-3 after completing play in the Philly Hoop Group Classic in late November.
DEFENSE! DEFENSE!: In holding New Jersey Institute one week ago 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 had a stretch of four consecutive games in which it allowed 60 or less points for the first time since the final four games of the 1996-97 season. In five of Loyola's eight 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 February 3, senior guard Gerald Brown is ranked 73rd in scoring average and 89th in steals per game, junior guard Marquis Sullivan is ranked 50th in three-point field-goal percentage and 62nd in three-point field goals made per game, sophomore guard Brett Harvey is 7th in assist/turnover ratio and 98th in assists and senior forward Omari Isreal is 84th in blocked shots. In team statistics, the Greyhounds are 16th nationally in free-throw percentage, 68th in three-point field goals made per game and 98th in field-goal percentage defense.
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 four of the five since and has reached double figures in seven straight. Last week 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. He followed that by equaling his career high with 10 field goals en route to 20 points at Canisius. After making just 11 of 24 attempts (.458) from the free-throw line in those first 18 contests, he has made 19 of 23 (.826) in the last five games. Over those seven double-figure scoring efforts, Tuck has averaged 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 61.8 percent from the floor (47-76) and 45.0 percent from three-point range (9-20).
SULLIVAN EXCELLING OFF THE BENCH: Junior guard Marquis Sullivan has taken to his renewed role off the bench. In 14 games out of the starting lineup, he has scored in double figures 10 times, including each of the last six. At Canisius Sunday, he entered the game and made three-pointers on four consecutive possessions to give the Greyhounds a lead they would not relinquish. The third of those tied the career mark for three-pointers held by Jason Rowe (1996-2000) and the fourth at the 12:15 mark of the first half gave Sullivan the record by himself with 187. He remains second behind Rowe (540) in three-point shot attempts (458). 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 Siena 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 at New Jersey Institute for Gerald Brown and he scored 13 points and his 15 points Sunday was his seventh straight game in double figures.
BROWN HAS SECOND-HALF EXPLOSION: For the second straight game, senior guard Gerald Brown produced a 16-point second half when he scored that many after the intermission to give him 18 at Canisius. In the previous game at New Jersey Institute, Brown was kept on the bench for the first half to rest an injury and he played every minute of the second half, scoring 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 26th 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 eight games ago to make room for freshman Brian Rudolph, Harvey has scored in double figures in five of the eight games. He scored nine points with seven assists and no turnovers in one and eight points with nine assists and no turnovers Sunday at Canisius. 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 eight games since the move, he is averaging 11.9 points, 5.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds while playing 33.6 minutes a game and shooting 45.6 percent from the floor (26-57), 42.5 percent from three-point (17-40), and 76.5 percent from the free-throw line (26-34). 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 seven of the eight games since and 11 of the Greyhounds' 13 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. Sunday at Canisius, he played every minute of the second half and held Frank Turner to seven points on 2-17 shooting one game after the Golden Griffins' guard had scored 26 in a win over Fairfield. Oh, by the way, he also scored 11 points on 5-7 shooting and handed out five assists in that game, his sixth double-digit scoring effort this season He is averaging 8.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists while playing 30.3 minutes a game and shooting 52.6 percent from the field (20-38), 43.8 percent from three-point (7-16) and 73.9 percent from the free-throw line (17-23) in the eight 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. In his latest outing, he made his only shot from the field for two points, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out three assists and blocked three shots. His 37 blocks is the sixth-highest season total in recorded school history and he has 58 blocks in 46 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.
GREYHOUNDS RAIN THREES: Loyola's last home game was a win over Siena in which the Greyhounds set a new school record for three-pointers made with its 18. That eclipsed the mark of 16 first established on December 9, 2005, in an overtime win at Fairfield, and equaled on January 8, 2006, in a home win over Marist. The performance tied the MAAC record which is held by Siena after making 18 in a home win over Saint Peter's on December 4, 1999. The 56.3 percent from three-point range (18-32) is a season high for the Greyhounds as was the 54.5 percent from the field (30-55).
GREYHOUNDS STRIVE FOR FIVE: Loyola has placed five players on double figures in each of its last two home games, wins over Marist and Siena, each of whom was in first place in the conference standings at the time. In both games, the group consisted of Gerald Brown, Brett Harvey, Marquis Sullivan, Brian Rudolph and Michael Tuck. Loyola also accomplished the feat when it played at Seton Hall as Omari Isreal and Joe Miles joined Brown, Sullivan and Tuck. Last season, the Greyhounds put five players in double figures in back-to-back January games, overtime wins at Siena (Brown, Tuck, Josko Alujevic, Harvey, Sullivan) and at home over Niagara (Brown, Tuck, Sullivan, Harvey, Isreal).