They sat on the press table with blank expressions on their faces, even after many of the fans at Reitz Arena had filed out of the gym. For Loyola forwards Brian Pendleton and Michael Reese, being victimized by what could best be described as the "frozen by the buzzer" play was too hard to swallow.
The result was a tip-in by Towson State forward John James just before the final buzzer that gave the Tigers a 66-64 win over the Greyhounds last night before 2,252.
The win was the fourth straight for Towson and its sixth in the past seven meetings against Loyola. Towson-Loyola games have turned into some exciting battles recently -- the past three contests have been decided by a total of five points.
"Anyone who saw this game certainly got their money's worth," Towson coach Terry Truax said. "It's a shame someone had to lose."
And it's strange the way Loyola lost. The game was tied at 64 after Pendleton had hit one of two free throws with 51 seconds left -- leaving a six-second difference between the 45-second shot clock and the game clock for Towson's possession.
Towson guard Craig Valentine put up a desperation jumper just before the shot-clock buzzer went off. When the rebound fell into Towson forward Larry Brown's hand after the buzzer, all 10 players on the court froze, as if regulation time had expired. Brown finally launched a shot, which was tipped in by James.
"I'd like to say I meant to do that to fake all the Loyola players out," Brown said jokingly. "I heard the buzzer go off and it didn't hit me that the game wasn't over until everyone said, 'Shoot, shoot.' "
James' basket cost Loyola a chance to defeat Towson for the second straight year. The Greyhounds had won an 85-84 thriller at the Towson Center last season that ended an eight-game Towson State winning streak.
Towson's streak could have been halted had Loyola not struggled from the free-throw line. The Greyhounds, a 69.2-percent shooting team from the line going in, hit 15 of 34 -- and seven of 20 in the second half.
"Incredible" is how Tom Schneider described his team's free-throw shooting. "We've had games when we've missed crucial foul shots, but never like this. It was an epidemic."
And it cost the Greyhounds a game that they led most of the way until the Tigers took their first lead, 53-52, after a layup by Chuck Lightening with 8:25 left. By the time Lightening hit a jumper with 9:02 left, Towson had gone 9:25 without a field goal against Loyola's smothering defense.
"We struggled against the zone," Truax said. "Nineteen games into a season, and we still have a couple of guys trying too hard."
Despite a poor start, the Tigers trailed just 31-22 at the half. In the second half, Towson was able to pick up the tempo, and the Tigers got a break when Loyola guard Kevin Green (19 points) went to the bench with his fourth foul with 9:22 left and the Greyhounds ahead 52-47. Towson had taken its first lead when Green was on the bench. Even though the Greyhounds led 57-54 when he returned with 6:30 left, the tide of the game had turned.
"It feels good," said James, who said he hadn't hit a winning basket since high school. "When [Brown] got the ball, I tried to tell him to shoot -- I didn't know what he was doing. Then the ball just came right into my hands."