Eleven years of frustration at the Division I level ended last night for the Loyola College basketball team.
The Greyhounds finally grabbed that one big victory they have been looking for to prove they can play with some of better teams in the country.
Xavier University, a team that has been to six straight NCAA tournaments, was the victim last night at Reitz Arena, along with Pete Gillen, their highly regarded coach.
Gillen was being wooed by Notre Dame te replace Digger Phelps last spring but decided to remain at Xavier.
He might have had a few second thoughts last night after the underdog Greyhounds rallied from a 10-point first half deficit to trounce Xavier, 68-52, before 2,179.
"This was a program game for us," said Loyola coach Tom Schneider. "This is the kind of victory that should make people around here realize that we can beat the good teams and make them want to come out and watch us play. It was the best I've seen a Loyola team play in my three years here."
Schneider kept his cool in the first half when Loyola was shooting poorly and went for 7 minutes, 33 seconds without scoring and fell behind, 21-11, with 4:10 left in the half.
He just kept rotating his players in and out the rest of the game and always seemed to have the right players on the floor at the right time.
Schneider also had his Greyhounds changing defenses the entire game against the Musketeers, creating a lot of confusion for a team that appeared to have more talent than the Greyhounds.
Gillen said: "We expected them to switch defenses but we never reacted to what they were doing. I don't think we could have beaten anybody on our schedule the way we played."
Gillen said he wanted his team to get the ball inside against Loyola's zone defense but it never worked out the right way.
"When we did get it inside, our big guys didn't do the job," said Gillen. "They were a step quicker than us all night. We ran into trouble every which way we turned. They were hungrier than us and we didn't attack their man or zone defense."
Michael Reese, who led Loyola with 15 points, said: "We knew what offense they were going to run, so as soon as they called the play, we switched our defense. People are going to have to remember they can't come in here and walk over us."
Reese said the Greyhounds, now 8-12, hope to carry the momentum from last night's victory into the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and possibly to an NCAA tourney bid.
"We've been close so many times to a big win (1-point loss to Princeton at home this year and 4-point loss to Richmond on the road) but we've just come up a little short, now we've arrived," said Reese.
Xavier is now 11-7 but leads the Midwestern Collegiate Conference with a 4-1 record. The Musketeers defeated Loyola by 19 points in Cincinnati in December 1990.
"It was a quality win over a quality program and a good friend of mine in Pete Gillen," said Schneider. "I told our kids at halftime we were playing good defense and the shots would have to start falling sooner or later."
One of the right players Schneider had on the floor last night in the second half was Kevin Anderson, who hit two straight three-point shots to send the Greyhounds ahead, 56-42, with 5:30 left in the game.
Anderson's shooting exhibition was part of a 13-0 Loyola run that ran the advantage to 59-42.
It came after Anderson had shot poorly in Monday night's loss to Towson State at Reitz. Anderson had a couple of three-point attempts that night that didn't come close.
"I just decided to keep on shooting," said Anderson.