When asked the reason behind the recent turnaround of Loyola, which has won three straight, coach Tom Schneider points to the film sessions that followed an 83-56 loss at Iona on Jan. 19.
"After that game, the team's confidence level was so low that we had to do something to build it up," said Schneider, whose team had lost six of seven. "We decided to show them film of a lot of the good things they were doing earlier in the season."
The first game after those films was against Iona, and the Greyhounds won, 66-65. That began a stretch of five wins in six games, the latest a 67-65 victory over Niagara on Saturday.
"They realized they could be a good team, and the players gained confidence," Schneider said. "They've played better since."
A win over Manhattan at Reitz Arena tonight (Loyola is 6-2 at home) would put the Greyhounds over .500 for the first time since they finished 15-14 in the 1986-87 season.
George Seriekas gave Loyola a spark in the initial turnaround, and the play of Kevin Anderson has helped in the past two games. Anderson had 21 points, on 8-for-13 shooting, against Niagara.
"Tracy Bergan and Kevin Green get the most publicity," Schneider said, "but Anderson has been terrific."
After tonight, Loyola will have four regular-season games remaining before the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, which begins March 1.
When John Haase and Chuck Robinson, the starting and backup small forwards, respectively, and their combined 18.8 points and seven rebounds went out of the Navy lineup four games ago with season-ending foot injuries, the Midshipmen expected to struggle. Add Nick Marusich to the injury list, and Navy (6-16, 2-8 in the Colonial Athletic Association) has major problems.
Marusich, a 6-foot-9 center, was able to go 28 minutes in Saturday's 82-73 loss to William and Mary, but was weakened by a stomach virus. He scored 13 of his 15 in the first half, and Navy led by three at the half. Without him for much of the second half, the Midshipmen fell apart and were out-rebounded, 42-33, for the game.
"They were missing, but were picking up their own rebounds and scoring," Navy coach Pete Herrmann said. "We only got two offensive rebounds in the second half. When we play with the smaller lineup that limits us, even off the bench."
Marusich, a junior, is no savior for Navy, but he helps with the bulk of the rebounding, along with forward Eddie Reddick. He scores 6.6 points a game, but he seems to get better with Haase (12.4 ppg, 47.3 percent from the field) out. "We were hoping we could play him for 25 to 30 minutes," Herrmann said. "He's coming along just fine and should be tough for us down the stretch."
Coppin State (15-8, 11-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) won its 11th straight Saturday, 81-71, at Florida A&M. Guard Reggie Isaac scored 29 and forward Larry Stewart pulled 11 rebounds and added 23 points (despite an uncharacteristic 3-for-12 shooting from the field).
This could be title week for the Eagles: A win over Bethune-Cookman tonight would clinch a share of the MEAC regular-season championship, and should they follow that with a win over South Carolina State on Thursday, they will win outright.
If Coppin wins the regular-season title this week, absent from thcelebration will be coach Fang Mitchell. On Wednesday, the fifth-year Eagles coach will undergo an operation to remove a benign tumor from the base of his neck and will be hospitalized for three or four days. Assistant coach Derek Brown will take over.
Towson State clinched a tie for the East Coast Conference title with Saturday's 84-76 win over Central Connecticut. Even without guard Devin Boyd, who missed the game with the flu, the Tigers (15-7) improved their ECC mark to 9-0 and tied the best conference start in league history.
While the Tigers were winning on the court, they were making news off the court as well. Towson athletic director Bill Hunter announced Friday that the team would seek membership in the North Atlantic Conference, a move that could mean the demise of the ECC.
"That's good. At least we're taking a step," coach Terry Truax said. "I'm hoping if they [NAC officials] do that, we would be able to play [in the NCAA tournament] next year. That's from a selfish standpoint."
Why is Truax selfish? He has one senior, and his top three players are juniors. Staying in the ECC, which drops to five teams next season, would mean not having a chance to earn an automatic berth in next year's National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament (league would be one team below required amount). By switching leagues and being able to play next season, the Tigers could be shooting for their third straight NCAA appearance.
Also in action during the weekend: Morgan State (5-18, 5-7 in the MEAC) got 24 points from Marcus Sheffield to defeat Bethune-Cookman, 97-85; and Mount St. Mary's lost in double overtime to Monmouth, 87-82.
Player of the Week: Loyola's Bergan. The 6-foot guard from DeMatha High School averaged 17 points and 10 assists in three wins. With 11 assists Saturday night, Bergan established a single-season Loyola assist record with 132, breaking the mark of 124 set by Kevin Robinson in 1975.
Game of the Week: South Carolina State at Coppin State. The Eagles get a chance to avenge their only conference loss.