For a team coming off a 4-24 season, it was a big victory.
"This was extremely important to start this way," said Loyola College coach Tom Schneider after yesterday's season-opening, 87-78 victory over George Washington at Reitz Arena. "I don't have a word for the magnitude of it..."
Guards Kevin Green and Tracy Bergan scored 63 of the 87 points, as the Greyhounds shot 50 percent from the field, an accuracy rate they reached in only two games last season.
And Loyola did it convincingly, spurting ahead, 18-6, at the start of the game, building the lead to 59-41 early in the second half, then with-standing all the Colonials' counterattacks.
In the process, Green, with a game-high 34 points, became only the 23rd Loyola player to reach 1,000 in a career.
"Getting 1,000 is nice, but the most important thing was to get the win," said Green, a junior. "The idea was to get off to quick start and get our confidence back."
The outcome spoiled the George Washington coaching debut of Mike Jarvis, who inherited four starters from a 14-17 team that beat Loyola, 82-69, last season. Jarvis did not start the Colonials' two leading scorers from last season, guard Ellis McKennie and forward Glen Sitney, and kept them on the bench for most of the game. The Colonials' inexperienced starting backcourt of freshman Alvin Pearsall and sophomore Dirkk Surles were no match for Green and Bergan.
"The home team is supposedly up 10-0 before the game starts. Add 10 more, and you're down 20," Jarvis said. "Not many teams are going to come back from that in the other team's gym. Unless you're just so superior to the opposition and we're not UNLV.
George Washington was rallying behind ex-Navy center Byron Hopkins, who scored nine straight to trim the team's deficit to 59-50 midway through the second half.
But two momentum-changing buckets by Kevin Anderson, one a three-pointer, raised Loyola's lead to 14 again, enough to withstand the final charge of the Colonials.
"It got a little hairy there, said Schneider, "but we showed a lot of poise, made our foul shots and had a good team effort."
Derek Campbell held the Colonials Sonni Holland to four field goals. Loyola center Mike Wagner contributed 11 rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots.
One of the Loyola's weaknesses last season was lack of punch and power from its frontcourt.
"We're not deep up there, "said point guard Bergan, who had 29 points. "Rebounding is the key to our year. If I have an off day, we're still going to get something from the backcourt because we have more people."