Feb. 9, 2008
THE GAME: Two teams that appear to be heading in opposite directions meet this afternoon. After losing at Rider Friday night, Niagara has lost four of seven and three of five on the road after starting the season 10-3. Loyola's win Thursday over Saint Peter's was its seventh victory in eight games - but that one defeat was Tuesday at Niagara. The Greyhounds were 5-8 over their first 13 games. Both teams have won 14 games entering today, but Loyola has played three additional thus far as it participated in a multi-team event and the Purple Eagles have chosen to play only 28 regular-season contests - one fewer than the NCAA-allowable maximum for teams not playing in a multi-team event.
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 53-59 (.473) career record. The 1989 Catholic graduate has a 3-5 record against the Purple Eagles. Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich is in his 10th season with the Purple Eagles and has a 174-121 (.590) record. The 1978 La Salle graduate has an 18-3 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 eight "like" games within the league, both teams defeated Manhattan, Marist and Siena at home and won at Fairfield, Manhattan and Saint Peter's while both lost at Rider. The Greyhounds won at Canisius while Niagara lost and the Purple Eagles won at Iona while the Gaels collected a home win over Loyola.
THE SERIES: Niagara leads, 27-14. 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 has won all three games coached by Jimmy Patsos when Niagara has visited Reitz 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 1108-1140 (.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 matched his career high with 33 points and Loyola jumped out to a 12-2 lead and never trailed in beating Saint Peter's 81-69 Thursday night at Reitz Arena. The Greyhounds allowed just 18.5 percent first-half shooting and shot 66.7 percent in the second half themselves as they won for the seventh time in eight games and improved to 8-1 at home. Sophomore guard Brett Harvey scored 13 points and senior forward Michael Tuck added 11 and tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds. Junior guard Marquis Sullivan reached double figures for the ninth straight game with 10 points. Senior forward Omari Isreal blocked a career-best five blocks and freshman guard Brian Rudolph grabbed a career-high eight rebounds while handing out seven assists without a turnover.
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 7, senior guard Gerald Brown is ranked 48th in scoring average, junior guard Marquis Sullivan is ranked 54th in three-point field-goal percentage and 61st in three-point field goals made per game, sophomore guard Brett Harvey is 6th in assist/turnover ratio and senior forward Omari Isreal is 78th in blocked shots. In team statistics, the Greyhounds are ninth nationally in free-throw percentage, 56th in three-point field goals made per game, 84th in field-goal percentage defense and 96th in assists per game.
BROWN TOPS 30-POINT PLATEAU...AGAIN: Two days after scoring 30 points at Niagara, senior guard Gerald Brown matched his career high with 33 points in the win over Saint Peter's, adding another half-point to his season scoring average to 19.0 per game. The effort was his fifth this season of over 30 points and was the 10th of his career. He also moved into 23rd on Loyola's all-time scoring list with 1,118 career points. After failing to score double figures in two of three games, he has scored 10 or more in four straight, averaging 24.3 in that stretch while shooting 47.1 percent from the field (24-51), 52.2 percent from three-point range (12-23) and 88.1 percent from the free-throw line (37-42) while averaging 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists. In four games against the Purple Eagles in a Loyola uniform, Brown has averaged 28.3 points while shooting 44.6 percent from the field (33-74) and 94.7 percent from the free-throw line (36-38).
TUCK CONTINUING HIS CONSISTENT PLAY: After no games of 20 or more in the first 18 games of the season, senior forward Michael Tuck topped that number in four of five and reached double figures in seven straight before just missing with nine at Niagara. He started up again with 11 Thursday night. Twice during that stretch he reached his career best of 23 and last Sunday at Canisius he connected on 10 field goals to match his career high. After making just 11 of 24 attempts (.458) from the free-throw line in those first 18 contests, he has made 22 of 26 (.846) in the last seven games. Over those seven double-figure scoring efforts, Tuck 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 16 games out of the starting lineup, he has scored in double figures 12 times, including each of the last eight. At Canisius last 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 now has 193 after his two successful shots Thursday. He remains second behind Rowe (540) in three-point shot attempts (474). In nine home games, he has reached double digits eight times - scoring nine in the ninth outing - and is averaging 14.0 points while shooting 48.4 percent from the field (45-93) and 46.8 percent from three-point range (29-62). 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 10 points Thursday was his ninth straight game in double figures.
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 10 games ago to make room for freshman Brian Rudolph, Harvey has scored in double figures in six of the 10 games. He scored nine points with seven assists and no turnovers in one game and had eight points with nine assists and no turnovers last 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 10 games since the move, he is averaging 11.5 points, 5.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds while playing 33.1 minutes a game and shooting 44.3 percent from the floor (31-70), 40.9 percent from three-point (18-44), and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line (35-45). 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 eight of the 10 games since and 12 of the Greyhounds' 14 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. At Niagara, he matched his career high with 12 points and handed out seven assists while playing 37 minutes. And against Saint Peter's, he did not take a shot from the field, but grabbed a career-best eight rebounds, handed out seven assists and did not commit a turnover while playing 36 minutes. He is averaging 7.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists while playing 31.5 minutes a game and shooting 47.9 percent from the field (23-48), 40.9 percent from three-point (9-22) and 72.7 percent from the free-throw line (24-33) in the 10 games since returning to the starting lineup.
ISREAL SETS CAREER HIGH FOR BLOCKS: Senior forward Omari Isreal set a career high Thursday with his five blocks. His 42 blocks this season is the fifth-best Greyhounds single-season total on record and he has 63 career blocks in 48 games. He has been impressive in games played at Reitz Arena, averaging 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 18 career home games while helping the Greyhounds to a 14-4 record in those games. This season, he has averaged 8.7 points and 6.1 boards in nine games at Reitz.