PHILADELPHIA -- Forget the final six minutes and the final score and remember that Loyola College is rebuilding from a 4-24 season.
From that perspective, Loyola's 75-68 loss to La Salle last night was another sign that the Greyhounds at least are headed in the right direction.
"We have to realize that every game we go into, we can win," Loyola coach Tom Schneider said. "We have to be aggressive, be assertive and win."
On another night, in another gym, Schneider's motto might have been translated into a victory. But not in the Civic Center and not against a team such as La Salle, which opened its season by winning its 30th straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game before 2,265.
The gap is clearly closing between the haves and have-nots of the MAAC.
"They gave us a battle," said La Salle coach Speedy Morris. "We expected to see Loyola improve, and they did."
For four seasons, La Salle was led by Lionel Simmons. But Simmons now is with the National Basketball Association's Sacramento Kings.
La Salle's new star is point guard Doug Overton. Despite playing on a sprained right ankle, Overton had 31 points. Jack Hurd added 20 for La Salle, which was playing without its top shooter, Randy Woods. The junior guard is serving a six-game suspension after breaking the jaw of Keith Morris (the coach's son) in a preseason workout.
Kevin Green's 24 points led Loyola (1-1), which had opened its season with a non-conference victory over George Washington. Tracy Bergan added 19 for the Greyhounds despite picking up his fourth foul with 7 minutes, 26 seconds left.
"We were ready to win," Schneider said.
With less than seven minutes remaining, the Greyhounds had the ball and a chance to turn a 59-58 deficit into a lead. But La Salle's Jeff Neubauer stole a pass from reserve guard Mike Malone, and Hurd drove in for a layup. Hurd made the shot, absorbed a Kevin Anderson foul and sank a free throw for a 62-58 La Salle lead with 6:26 left.
Loyola then attempted to turn the game into a free-throw-shooting contest. But that only prolonged the misery. The Greyhounds made only two field goals in the final six minutes, as La Salle pulled away.
"If we took our time at the end of the game and got easier shots, we could have won," Green said. "But we rushed things."
"We can't think about just coming close in a game," Schneider said. "We have to believe that we can win."