It wasn't a work of art, but, to a head coach, every victory looks like a masterpiece. Coaches would much rather win ugly than look good and lose.
That's how it was for Loyola College's Tom Schneider yesterday after the Greyhounds defeated Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Fairfield, 74-58, at Reitz Arena for their fourth straight victory and seventh in the past nine games.
Not since the 1978-79 season have the Greyhounds had a more productive stretch.
"I think they're starting to believe in themselves," Schneider said of his team. The Greyhounds are in fourth place in the nine-team MAAC and can finish 10-6, which would be by far their best record in three years in the conference.
"This [game] was not a thing of beauty and was pretty physical, but we played well on defense and limited their second-chance opportunities," Schneider said. "We took them out of some of the things they wanted to do and controlled the second half."
It was a game in which neither team scored for almost four minutes at the start.
Fifty-six personal fouls were called, and 77 free throws were taken. Both teams shot poorly from the field -- Loyola, 40.4 percent, and Fairfield, 29.3 percent.
Neither team had any consistent offensive flow, but Loyola (12-13, 8-6) stayed with the Stags on the boards, despite 6-foot-7 center Drew Henderson's 15 rebounds, and took better care of the basketball.
"This is just an indication of where this program is right now," said Paul Cormier, the Stags' first-year coach. "We're just not ready to win on the road [1-11 record, 0-8 in the MAAC]."
Fairfield beat Loyola, 71-63, at home Jan. 25, and had won four straight in the series and six of seven overall.
Loyola, like all the Stags' opponents, focused on stopping Henderson, who had 18 points and 20 rebounds in the first meeting. A combination of David Credle, George Sereikas and Mark Sparzak held Henderson to 12 points this time.
Loyola had troubles of its own. Top scorer Kevin Green got in early foul trouble, and the Greyhounds really didn't assert themselves until near the end of the first half.
"It was 70 degrees outside and nobody was in the stands when we started," said Schneider. "And it's tough to get ready when you've got a big one [La Salle]) on Wednesday."
But Michael Reese and Sereikas picked up the scoring, Brian Pendleton and Credle handled Henderson inside and the Stags never got closer than four in the second half.
"I don't mind the dirty work," said Pendleton, who led the Greyhounds with 10 rebounds. "I enjoy that."
Reese, who had 17 points, said: "Obviously, Kevin is our best scorer, but when he's out, points are going to be scored. Everybody is capable."
Schneider said: "As a coach, you like that. La Salle has to pick up the box [score] and look at the balance."