When Towson hosted Loyola last night in the championship game of the Beltway Classic it matched a team in transition against a ballclub that is apparently up-and-coming.
The team in transition is Towson (1-2, 1-0 in East Coast Conference play), the 1989 Beltway Classic champion, which lost four starters from a team that won the ECC tournament and gave Oklahoma a scare in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. The up-and-coming team is Loyola, which was 4-24 last year but before last night was 2-1 and playing in its first Beltway Classic final.
Playing on a court where they went 12-1 last year, the Tigers built an 18-point lead in the second half Friday before holding off UMBC, 83-75. Guard Devin Boyd was the only returning Towson player who scored in double figures last season, but against the Retrievers five Tigers did so, led by forward Chuck Lightening's 19 points.
"With our team, offense should come from everywhere," said guard Lewis Waller, who averaged 7.1 points per game a year ago and had 16 against UMBC. "No one person should lead us in scoring in all the games this season."
Kurk Lee, now with the New Jersey Nets, was the top gun for Towson a year ago. This year's team lacks one true scorer but does have depth: Boyd and Waller really are point guards but have proven they can score. With Terrance Jacobs (16 points, four steals against UMBC) and Myron Ray, a transfer from St. Bonaventure, helping off the bench, coach Terry Truax has four quality guards.
In that sense, maybe last night's final should have been renamed the "Backcourt" Classic as Loyola also has quality guards in Kevin Green and Tracy Bergan. Green, a junior out of Dunbar, had 19 points on eight-of-14 shooting as the Greyhounds won their first Beltway Classic game with a 72-60 victory over Mount St. Mary's. Bergan, a sophomore from DeMatha High School who missed most of last season with academic problems, is doing a heads-up job running the offense while scoring 18 points a game.
"They're a much improved basketball team," Truax said of Loyola. "Loyola plays better against Towson then Towson plays against Loyola."
The Greyhounds, playing their third of eight straight road games, entered the game looking for their first victory against Towson in five tries. Towson won at Loyola last year, 87-79, with Lee leading the Tigers with 29 points and seven steals.