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Men's Basketball Heads To 2011 MAAC Championship
March 3, 2011
Bridgeport, Conn. - The Loyola University Maryland men's basketball team enters this weekend as the No. 5 seed for the 2011 Spark Energy MAAC Basketball Championship and will face off against fourth-seeded Saint Peter's on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in a quarterfinal contest at Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn.
This is the third time in five years that the Greyhounds have received a first-round bye and it is only the fourth time Loyola has moved directly into the quarterfinals since the tournament added first round games with the addition of Marist and Rider for the 1997-1998 season.
Also, for the third time in five years, the Greyhounds have defeated eight of their nine MAAC opponents. Only third-seeded Rider swept Loyola during the regular season. Those teams could only meet in a championship game the way the bracket is constructed.
After dropping the pair of December MAAC games, Loyola evened its league record at 2-2 before losing at Iona, 86-68. The Greyhounds regrouped and won four straight to push their overall and conference marks above .500 as January ended. An 88-85 overtime home win over the Gaels, allowed Loyola to finish the first month of 2011 with a 7-2 record - an improvement of 63.5 percent from December.
Since then, the Greyhounds have alternated wins and losses in MAAC play, enjoying one two-game winning streak with a non-conference win at Towson followed by a 75-63 victory at Niagara in late February.
On Monday, junior forward Shane Walker and freshman guard Justin Drummond were selected by the league's head coaches to the All-MAAC Third Team and MAAC All-Rookie team, respectively. Walker was a two-time MAAC Co-Player of the Week during the campaign and finished the regular season as the team's leading scorer (11.0 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (7.2). A four-time Rookie of the Week pick, Drummond is the fourth straight Greyhounds freshman to earn All-Rookie honors and the fifth such selection in the seven-year tenure of Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos.
Still to be announced at the annual Awards Reception Thursday night in Bridgeport, Conn., are the MAAC Rookie of the Year, for which Drummond is a candidate as a member of the All-Rookie team; the MAAC Sixth Man of the Year, for which junior guard J'hared Hall was nominated; and the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, for which Walker was nominated.
Loyola twice before entered the Championships as the No. 5 seed and in both occasions advanced to the MAAC Semifinals with overtime quarterfinal victories over the No. 4 seed. In 1994 - the year of the Greyhounds' only championship - Loyola defeated the Peacocks, 87-80, and followed that by toppling top-seeded Canisius and No. 3-seed Manhattan en route to the title. Four years later, the Greyhounds posted an 85-80 overtime win over No. 4 Niagara, before losing to top-seeded and eventual champion Iona in the semifinals.
The Greyhounds have prided themselves all season as being balanced and that proves out as nine different players have scored in double figures in a game and seven different players average 8.2 points or better. In the overtime win over Iona, six different Greyhounds reached double figures and three other times five scored in double digits. Loyola won all four games.
Sophomore forward Erik Etherly has been the most consistent Greyhound since late January, entering the championship with 10 straight double-figure outings. The efforts have vaulted him into the second spot on the team's scoring list (10.7 ppg) and he remains the team leader in rebounding (7.5 rpg).
Walker had a string of six straight double-digit efforts snapped Sunday at Canisius, but freshman guard Dylon Cormier has found his shooting touch of late with three straight games of 10 or more after not reaching double figures for five straight.
Senior guard Brian Rudolph is the only member of the Greyhounds' roster to have enjoyed a MAAC Championship victory as the starting point guard on the 2007-2008 team that advanced to the MAAC Semifinals. He is coming off a memorable weekend, having taken over the top spot in school history for games played with his appearance at Niagara (122) and then recording his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-best 10 rebounds at Canisius. As the only senior playing, he has been the leader on and off the floor and is just one of two Greyhounds who have recorded 500 or more assists for his career. He enters the weekend with 525, needing 13 to match the school record.
No matter the results of the weekend, Loyola's 10 MAAC wins ties for the third-best conference output in school history and the 15 wins thus far rank tied for 18th all-time for the 101-year history of men's basketball at the institution.