Towson State University is beginning to make the Beltway Classic its private preserve.
After losing the championship game of the first four-team event, the Tigers have won the past two tournaments. They staved off (( Loyola College, 62-60, on their home court Saturday night to silence the doubters who said they were in for a long season after lopsided road losses at Dayton and Maryland.
Stifled by the Greyhounds' zone in the second half after building a 16-point lead just before halftime, Towson used some late-game poise by sophomores William Griffin and Larry Brown to put away its rival, which shot 34.8 percent from the field but never was out of the game.
"We're not comfortable versus a zone, and it was smart of them to play us that way," said Towson coach Terry Truax. "Last year, we relied on perimeter shooting, and Kurk Lee would bail us out. But Loyola spaced us out and forced us to shoot from further than we really wanted to be."
The Greyhounds rallied to lead 53-51, but Brown and Griffin made almost all the clutch plays in the final 3 1/2 minutes, with Brown hitting two clinching free throws.
"We need to play two halves, a full game," said point guard Devin Boyd, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player despite 10-for-29 shooting. "We knew Loyola was much improved, and they definitely came prepared. We couldn't afford to be too relaxed."
Evidence of the Tigers' new scoring balance was reflected in the two game totals. Boyd had 34 points, Chuck Lightening 28, third guard Terrance Jacobs 22, Lewis Waller 20, Griffin 18 and Brown 16.
Griffin and Lightening also made all-tournament, joining Loyola guards Kevin Green and Tracy Bergan and Mount St. Mary's Alex Watson.
* Loyola coach Tom Schneider said his players' biggest hurdle is "that we have to believe we're a good basketball team. We were tentative at the start. Maybe we're not to the point yet where we believe we can beat a good team on their floor. I don't know why. It's something we have to talk about."
But Schneider had to be happy with the grit of the Greyhounds, who almost overcame the defensive blankets thrown around Bergan and Green, who shot a combined 14-for-38 from the field against Towson.
The Greyhounds next go on the road to face Xavier, Texas and either Sam Houston or UT-Pan American on the second night of the Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas.
"We faced a gut-check time in this game," said Schneider. "We had to decide whether they were going to let them run us out of the gym or come back. We came back."
* The University of Maryland Baltimore County has reached the time to regroup after just four games.
With Boston University at the Baltimore Arena followed by three road games, the Retrievers are thin at guard with ankle injuries to Bobby Mills and Derell Thompson and were outplayed in the consolation game by Mount St. Mary's, 97-81.
"We've got to rely on younger guys," said coach Earl Hawkins. "The freshmen have to step up."
* Mount coach Jim Phelan said he doesn't mind losing, "but I don't like it when we don't go down fighting. We didn't play hard against Loyola [in Friday's 62-60 loss in the semifinals]. That's why I had to shake things up."
After a morning practice and the insertion of two new starters, the Mount beat UMBC to win its first game.
"We never gave them a chance," said Watson. "We jumped right on them and they stepped back. That made it easier."