THE GAME: Loyola enters this afternoon looking to snap a five-game losing streak while Drexel's loss Wednesday ended a two-game winning streak. The Greyhounds' slide comes following a six-game winning streak while the Dragons have lost three of their last five.
THE COACHES: Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos enters his fifth season and has registered a 69-79 (.466) career record. The victory at Marist moved him into fifth place all-time in wins at Loyola. The 1989 Catholic graduate is 0-1 against the Dragons. Drexel head coach James "Bruiser" Flint is in his eighth season with the Dragons and sports a 132-105 (.557) record at the school. He is in his 13th season as a collegiate head coach, posting a 218-177 (.552) career record. The 1987 Saint Joseph's graduate is 1-0 against the Greyhounds.
THE TEAMS: There are four common opponents between this afternoon's foes. Both teams won at Rider, lost at Fairfield and lost at home to Niagara. Drexel lost at James Madison while the Greyhounds defeated the Dukes at Davidson in the consolation bracket of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
THE SERIES: Loyola leads the series, 4-3. The teams faced each other annually between 1980-1981 and 1985-1986 with the Greyhounds winning the last three of those. They last met last season in the Philly Hoop Group Classic Liberty Bracket Championship Game at Philadelphia's Palestra. Drexel turned a seven-point deficit into an 11-point advantage while holding Loyola scoreless for 6:42 at the beginning of the second half and connected on three of four free throws to seal a 54-52 victory. Brian Rudolph is the only returning Loyola player to score in double figures in that game, finishing with 10 points with three rebounds and three assists.
THE PROGRAM: Loyola is playing its 99th recorded season of basketball this season. The first season was 1908-1909 and this year the College is celebrating the 100th anniversary of that first season. The Greyhounds have posted a 1125-1161 (.492) all-time record during the time.
LAST TIME OUT: After being held to 2-17 shooting for the first 12 minutes of the second half, Canisius made all seven of its remaining field-goal attempts to finish the game on a 21-8 run and erase an 11-point deficit for a 69-67 victory Monday night in Reitz Arena. Loyola scored the first 10 points of the second half to wipe away an eight-point halftime deficit and then scored 13 of the next 15 points for a 59-48 lead with 7:43 remaining only to have the Golden Griffins mount their comeback. Sophomore guard Jamal Barney had a final shot to tie the game, but his fade away jumper fell short as the buzzer sounded. He finished with 30 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for his second career double-double.
LOYOLA IN BRACKETBUSTERS GAMES: This afternoon, Loyola plays in a non-conference game as part of its commitment to the BracketBusters event. While still not having been chosen to take part in the televised portion of the event, Loyola is a perfect 3-0 in the February matchups in its three years in the event and 2-1 in the return games for a 5-1 record after its 95-89 win at UC Davis in December. The only loss was a road return game played just after the break for exams, dropping a 63-57 decision at High Point in December 2006.
GREYHOUNDS SHORE UP THREE-POINT DEFENSE: Opponents' ability to shoot the three-point shot early in the season was one area of concern for the Greyhounds, but they have shown drastic improvement. Since holding Duke to 1-of-12 shooting, Loyola has put together 16 games in which opponents are making just 24.1 percent (52-216) from three-point territory. Twice the Greyhounds have pitched a three-point shutout and four other times only one three-point shot was successful. Entering the game with the Blue Devils, Greyhounds opponents had been successful 41.2 percent (73-177) of the time.
MORE ON BARNEY: After getting his legs under him and scoring just 66 points in his first six games, sophomore guard Jamal Barney has tallied in double figures in 21 of the 22 contests that followed, the only blip being an eight-point outing at Duke. In 13 of those 21, he has reached 20 or more points, including a 41-point effort at Canisius and 40 points against New Jersey Institute. Those are the only 40-point games in the MAAC this season. He has taken over the top spot in the conference in points per game (19.2 ppg), having raised his scoring average 9.4 points since going scoreless in a November game against Cornell. Through games of February 15, he is ranked 42nd nationally in scoring. He also is averaging 5.7 rebounds, lifting his average 2.2 boards per outing since that game with the Big Red. Since he moved into the starting lineup 24 games ago, he is averaging 20.8 points and 6.1 rebounds a game while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor (182-430) and 79.3 percent from the free-throw line (107-135). In 19 of those 24 starts, he has scored in double figures after the intermission and more than 15 points eight of those 19 times. He boasts a 12.3 scoring average after halftime as a starter. He is the 23rd Greyhound to score more than 500 points in a season and his 537 points are 18th all-time.
HARVEY HITS BUZZER BEATER: While he scored what proved to be the winning basket with 55 seconds remaining in a victory at Saint Peter's as a freshman, junior guard Brett Harvey had never beaten the buzzer to win or tie a game. That is, until this season. Down three at Marist, the Greyhounds turned to their best clutch shooter and he delivered with a 35-footer that rattled home and sent the game to overtime. Loyola won it in the extra session for its fifth straight win. One week earlier, he became the eighth player in men's basketball history to record 300 assists in a career and he now needs 144 points to join a quintet of Greyhounds players with more than 1,000 points and 300 assists in a career (Tracy Bergan, Tom Gormley, Kevin Robinson, Jason Rowe). He is the 42nd player in Loyola's recorded history to reach 800 career points. He had a string of 47 consecutive free throws snapped at Saint Peter's and then made 26 straight before making eight of nine at Rider. Twice against the Red Foxes, he was fouled on a three-point shot attempts and made all three free throws and then did it again at Rider. Through games of February 15, he is ranked third nationally in free-throw percentage and is one of four players above 90 percent for the season. Five times this season he has made nine or more foul shots in a game and his 13-for-13 performance against Niagara equaled the second-best performance in school history. He is averaging 12.6 points over his last 15 games.
RUDOLPH LENDS HELPING HAND: Out of the starting lineup for the first time since early January of last year, sophomore guard Brian Rudolph responded with his best performance of the season against Coppin State, handing out nine assists without a turnover and adding two steals. The assist total was just one off his career high of 10. He had his two front teeth knocked out while diving for a loose ball in the game and committed just one turnover after the incident over three games, handing out five helpers with no turnovers at UC Davis and six assists with just one turnover at North Carolina State. He led the team in scoring with 13 points at Duke and then made seven free throws for his only points while handing out seven assists in the win at Canisius. He has scored in double figures in four of his last nine games and did not miss a shot from the field en route to 12 points in the win at Rider. He also grabbed seven rebounds against the Broncs. He is averaging 7.7 points, 4.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 43.6 percent (44-101) from the floor in the 19 games since he came out of the starting lineup.
SULLIVAN REACHES 1,000: Senior guard Marquis Sullivan was honored prior to the game on December 10 for scoring the 1,000th point of his career. The 29th player to reach that milestone, he tallied the historic basket on a three-pointer with 4:33 remaining in the first half at Davidson, one of four three-pointers he scored in the game while leading the team with 16 points. After being held scoreless in the win over Coppin State, he bounced back with a season-high 20 points in just 22 minutes at UC Davis and then scored 21 points in 20 minutes at North Carolina State. He scored 17 points in 14 minutes in the home win against Marist and then made five three-pointers for the fourth time this season against Manhattan. He cracked the Top 20 in career scoring with his 15 points against Manhattan Saturday and now has 1,190 career points. After not playing for two games, he came off the bench cold to drain the game-clinching free throws in the four-point win at Manhattan. His appearance at UC Davis made him the 37th player in Greyhounds basketball history to play in more than 100 games and when he enters the game this afternoon he will become the school's all-time leader for games played with 116.
WRIGHT ESTABLISHES CAREER HIGH: Junior forward Jawaan Wright carried the Greyhounds with his first-half effort in the home win over Marist. He did not miss a shot from the field and made five of his six free-throw attempts to score 13 points before the intermission to establish a new career high. He scored Loyola's final six points of the half to give Loyola a three-point lead. He also grabbed eight first-half rebounds to match his then career-best in that category. He did not improve on either of those numbers in the second half after picking up two quick fouls but his contribution was significant. His double-digit scoring output was his first since coming off the bench to score 11 points late in the game at Davidson - 14 games prior. In the rematch with the Red Foxes, he played a significant role late in the game. He created a tie-up to give Loyola a possession late in regulation and then in the overtime, he made a pair of free throws with 1:49 remaining and then dove on the floor for a loose ball and called time out to save a possession with 49.3 seconds left in the extra session. At Rider, he collected a career-high 11 rebounds while scoring four points with a block and two steals.
HEALTHY LEWIS RETURNING TO FORM: Having battled nagging injuries all season, sophomore guard Tony Lewis appears to be returning to the form he showed early in the season when he averaged 12.3 points as a starter in the first four games of the campaign. He started at Siena and made both of his shots from the field for four points in 15 minutes and then came off the bench to score eight points with four rebounds and two steals against Iona. Against Canisius, he score five points with three blocked shots in 15 minutes. Prior to the Siena game, he had been scoreless in six straight contests and had scored just 25 points in the 21 games since he poured in a career-high 23 points with eight rebounds against Cornell on November 18.
WINBUSH PROVIDING SPARK: Keen observers have noticed the impact that freshman forward Anthony Winbush has made when he moved into the starting lineup for a 14-game stretch. After playing just 34 minutes in the season's first four games, he hadn't played less than 22 in any of his 14 starts until the NJIT game when he played just one minute after succumbing to the flu. He came off the bench at Manhattan and tied for team-high honors with eight rebounds and three assists. He came off the bench for nine games prior to Monday, averaging 2.2 points and 4.3 rebounds while averaging 17.6 minutes played over that stretch. He played 31 minutes with two points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot in a starting role Monday.
FICKE DOING ALL OF THE LITTLE THINGS: It's been a big two months for senior forward Dan Ficke. He graduated in December after 3-1/2 years with a degree in business. Later that month, he made his first career start, at Duke on national television no less. He enrolled in graduate school in January, seeking an MBA from Loyola's nationally known program. And at the beginning of January, he was on the floor during most of Loyola's offensive runs, although one would never know it. He has yet to score a field goal and his only shot taken this season came during his start at Duke, but his rebounding and screening was game-changing. He made both of his free-throw attempts at Fairfield for his first points on the season.
THE THIEVES WERE IN THE HOUSE: Despite the loss at Siena, the Greyhounds were successful in one aspect of their game plan as they forced the Saints into 19 turnovers and turned 16 of those into steals. The 16 thefts tied for the fifth-highest total in school history and are the most since Loyola recorded 16 at UMBC in a 77-71 win on November 20, 1999. Senior guard Marquis Sullivan and sophomore guard Jamal Barney each collected a career-high four steals and sophomore guard Brian Rudolph added three as seven different Greyhounds were credited with thefts. Sullivan twice cleanly picked the pocket of MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Kenny Hasbrouck in the backcourt and turned the plays into easy Loyola layups. It was the second straight game with double-figures in steals and the Greyhounds also blocked six shots for the second consecutive contest.
NEXT TIME OUT: The non-conference portion of the season concluded today, the Greyhounds focus on league play for the final weekend of the regular season. After Thursday's Senior Night contest with Rider, Loyola visits Iona on March 1 for the final contest before the MAAC Championship.