Loyola hopes to end postseason blues

March 06, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Postseason play has not been kind to the Loyola College Greyhounds.

Since entering Division I 10 years ago, only the 1984-85 team, which lost the ECAC Metro championship game to Fairleigh Dickinson, has come close to reaching the NCAA tournament.

The usual procedure for the Greyhounds has been to pack an overnight bag, lose in the first round and return to Baltimore. They have lost five straight playoff games.

But this year, Loyola is serious about reversing the trend entering today's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal against Iona at Knickerbocker Arena.

And it may have been something as simple as some tonsorial work that changed the team's outlook.

After an embarrassing loss at Fairfield on Jan. 25, the players decided to shed their long locks, and the Greyhounds have won nine of 11 games -- including the past six in a row -- to enter the tournament as the hottest team in the field.

"Guys were starting to grow goatees. That was not the sign of a team coming together," said coach Tom Schneider. "So we had a meeting and got more focused. Everybody got a haircut. I think it was a little bit of a jab at me, too."

"Everybody didn't go completely bald," said co-captain Kevin Green, who needs 57 points in the tournament to equal Jim Lacy's school record of 2,199.

"Somebody just came up the idea that we come in with a new attitude, so we shaved our heads. It worked."

Some juggling by Schneider seems to have worked, too. He changed the starting lineup, inserting David Credle at center and began using his bench more. Credle's additional bulk helped on the backboards, and Loyola, fresher and deeper, began playing adhesive defense all over the court.

"In the past we were an all-perimeter team. We were out-physicaled," Green said. "Credle, [Brian] Pendleton and [Michael] Reese added the muscle we needed. Now we can go inside, too."

There were still a few bumps, including a defeat at home to Towson State, which scored the winning basket when Loyola players froze, responding to the wrong horn.

"Now, that really was embarrassing," said Green. "You never want to lose like that. That was lowest point of the season, but after that, we completed our turnaround."

Reese, the team's No. 2 scorer and leading rebounder, rested a sprained ankle during the regular-season finale, a 62-61 victory over Iona that enabled the Greyhounds to split the series.

But he has practiced this week and is expected to be ready.

"It's still sore, but I'm going one day at time and pacing myself," he said. "I'm definitely playing."

Loyola is not a classic offensive team. It scuffles and scrambles, tries to convert points off defensive plays and stays in games by holding down the opposition. The Greyhounds scored more than 80 only once since Jan. 17 -- in a loss at La Salle.

In Iona, they are facing the beaten finalist from last year -- a team with an excellent guard, Derrick Canada, and a big front line.

"We can definitely beat them," said Reese. "I don't think they're playing together as well as we are. I don't think they really utilize the big guys like they could."

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