THE GAME: Loyola will be looking to snap its current six-game losing streak which cam on the heels of a six-game winning streak while Rider has won two straight after having lost two in a row.
THE COACHES: Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos enters his fifth season and has registered a 69-80 (.463) career record. The victory at Marist moved him into fifth place all-time in wins at Loyola and tonight he will coach his 150th career game at Loyola, fourth all-time in Greyhounds coaching annals. The 1989 Catholic graduate is 6-3 against the Broncs. Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey is in his fourth season with the Broncs and sports a 63-57 (.525) record at the school. He is in his ninth season as a collegiate head coach, posting a 151-69 (.686) career record. The 1996 Susquehanna graduate is 1-6 against the Greyhounds.
THE TEAMS: Outside of MAAC opponents, two teams appear on the schedules of tonight's opponents. Both teams collected home wins over New Jersey Institute and both team lost to Drexel with Rider losing at home and the Greyhounds losing in Philadelphia.
THE SERIES: Rider leads the series, 19-13, although the Greyhounds have won two straight and six of the last seven. The teams met eight times before Rider became a member of the MAAC in 1997-98 and Loyola was the Broncs' first-ever MAAC opponent. When these teams met at Rider last month, sophomore guard Jamal Barney scored 17 of his game-high 28 points in the second half and junior guard Brett Harvey added 13 of his 18 after the intermission as the tandem equaled the Broncs' output for the half and led Loyola to a 75-61 road win. The Greyhounds shot 52.4 percent (11-21) in the second half and went to the free-throw line 37 times for the game while holding Rider to 10-33 shooting after the intermission (30.3 percent) which included making just one of 11 shots from three-point range (9.1 percent). Sophomore guard Brian Rudolph did not miss a shot from the floor while scoring 12 points with seven rebounds and junior forward Jawaan Wright grabbed a career-best 11 boards.
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 1125-1162 (.492) all-time record during the time.
LAST TIME OUT: The Greyhounds executed their game plan to perfection in the first half, but Drexel caught fire from the field after the intermission while Loyola went cold in a 74-58 defeat at the hands of the Dragons Saturday afternoon. Drexel shot just 23.3 percent (7-30) in the first half, but made its first 10 field-goal attempts to open the final 20 minutes and used a 15-0 run to snap a 38-all tie and then coasted to the win. Sophomore guard Jamal Barney led Loyola with 16 points and four steals while guards Marquis Sullivan and Brett Harvey each scored 10 points off the bench. Junior forward Jawaan Wright grabbed eight rebounds, made all six of his free-throw attempts and handed out three assists. The Greyhounds made 18 straight free throws in the game and finished at 94.7 percent (18-19).
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 22 of the 23 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 (19.1 ppg), having raised his scoring average 9.3 points since going scoreless in a November game against Cornell. Through games of February 22, he is ranked 38th nationally in scoring. He also is averaging 5.6 rebounds, lifting his average 2.1 boards per outing since that game with the Big Red. Since he moved into the starting lineup 25 games ago, he is averaging 20.6 points and 6.0 rebounds a game while shooting 41.6 percent from the floor (189-454) and 79.6 percent from the free-throw line (109-137). In 19 of those 25 starts, he has scored in double figures after the intermission and more than 15 points eight of those 19 times. He boasts a 12.1 scoring average after halftime as a starter. He is the 23rd Greyhound to score more than 500 points in a season and his 553 points are 15th 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 134 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 22, 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 12.4 points over his last 16 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 7.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 43.1 percent (47-109) from the floor in the 20 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 1,200 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 he became the school's all-time leader in games played with his 116th appearance at Drexel.
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 the Canisius home game, 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: The year of 2008 ended with a bang 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.
NEXT TIME OUT: The regular season concludes Sunday for all MAAC teams and Loyola will complete its campaign at Iona. After that, all 10 teams will prepare and travel to the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., for the 2009 MAAC Men's Basketball Championship.