After being pounded on the boards by Fairfield the entire game, it may have been fitting that Loyola's chances for its first winning season in four years were diminished by a late tip-in.
Sophomore forward Drew Henderson delivered the damaging blow, tipping in a miss with four seconds left, giving the Stags a 68-66 victory in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at Reitz Arena.
Fairfield (8-17, 4-10) is attempting to avoid the eighth or nintseed in the conference tournament. Loyola (12-14, 5-10) needed a victory to clinch the sixth spot in the MAAC, but now -- depending on what the other conference teams do -- can drop into the eight-nine game. It was the Greyhounds' third straight loss.
Loyola coach Tom Schneider called it "one of the most disappointing games in my coaching career."
Fairfield out-rebounded Loyola, 57-35, as three players had double figures in rebounds. The Stags were averaging 39.2 rebounds entering the game.
"They killed us on the boards and they killed us in all desirablaspects -- rebounds, loose balls, defensive pressure," Schneider said. "It's atrocious to get out-rebounded, 57-35 -- that's disgusting."
Despite the rebounding disadvantage and horrendoufree-throw shooting (10 of 22, 45.5 percent), the Greyhounds were in position to win in the last minute.
After Fairfield's Todd Holland missed a three-pointer with 4seconds left and the score tied at 66, Loyola had a chance to run down the clock. But Tracy Bergan (12 points, nine assists, six turnovers) drove the right lane and missed an off-balance jumper with 37 seconds left. That set up Fairfield's game-winning possession.
JTC "I wanted a timeout, but he said he didn't hear me," Schneidesaid. "Then I asked him why he shot the ball. He didn't say anything."
Fairfield called time out before its final attempt, and Schneider'words to his players in the Loyola huddle were clear.
"The last thing we said in the timeout before that last shot wathat we had to block out and we had to rebound," Schneider said. "They had 20 offensive rebounds, and a guard [Johnnie Jones] had 10. I don't think there's any secret to rebounding. All they have to do is go for the ball."
While the loser of that eight-nine game will go home, the winner likely will face La Salle, the dominant MAAC team in recent years. The Greyhounds have beaten the second-, third- and fourth-place teams in the league, but are 0-2 against the Explorers.
After winning six straight two weeks ago, the Greyhounds noface the possibility of limping into the MAAC tournament, which begins March 1 in Albany, N.Y.
"It's a malaise that hit us last year after losing to Fairfield and wpacked it in for the last five games," Schneider said. "Maybe the kids can't handle the good press they've been getting lately. I can handle losing, but when there's no effort, the players have cheated themselves, the fans and the game. And that bothers me."
The Greyhounds close the season at home Saturday against St. Peter's.