Better days for Loyola and Mount

December 11, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Loyola goes to Emmitsburg tonight to renew its hostilities with longtime rival Mount St. Mary's. The game is bound to be better than their meeting last season, a stumble-fest that both programs would like to forget.

When they gather at Knott Arena at 7:30, Mount St. Mary's will trot out a 2-0 record for the first time in its six-year tenure in Division I. Loyola has lost its past two games, but the 2-2 Greyhounds are showing renewed vigor under first-year coach Skip Prosser.

The circumstances were radically different Dec. 12, 1992. When Loyola beat Mount St. Mary's, 56-52, both programs were in trouble. The Greyhounds lost their top two players before the season, and coach Tom Schneider resigned in January. A 2-25 record was the worst in the Greyhounds' history.

At Mount St. Mary's, legendary coach Jim Phelan was squabbling with his president over his future. The Loyola loss dropped the Mountaineers to 0-4, but they played better than .500 the rest of the season and established themselves as contenders in the Northeast Conference. Afterward, they got a new president instead of a new coach.

Both teams have freshmen and sophomores in prominent roles, and further encouragement comes from the possibility that neither is at full strength.

Junior forward B. J. Pendleton is the only sure starter in Prosser's mind, and the Greyhounds' lineup could be in for more juggling after tonight. Loyola's next game is Jan. 3, and Prosser is hopeful that senior forward Michael Reese will gain his eligibility when the first semester ends next week. Reese, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in ** 1991-92, was suspended from Loyola in November 1992.

Senior guard Tracy Bergan, the other missing Greyhound in 1992-93, is only 16 assists away from the school career record, but he missed Wednesday's loss at American while nursing tendinitis. He'll probably play tonight.

Mount St. Mary's is using Chris McGuthrie, the conference's Newcomer of the Year in 1992-93, at the point, but he could move to shooting guard when Riley Inge becomes eligible at the end of the first semester, as early as next Saturday's game against Bucknell. Inge didn't qualify for freshman eligibility when he graduated from Paint Branch High, and spent last year at San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College. He didn't play for San Jacinto.

The NEC gives the home court advantage to higher-seeded teams throughout its postseason tournament, and Phelan has impressed upon his players the importance of dominating at Knott Arena. Loyola is also trying to develop a tougher mentality.

"Our players think they're playing hard, but I think they have to play harder," Prosser said. "I'm not going to lower my expectations. They're going to have to change for me."

Loyola opened with wins over William and Mary and Towson State to match last season's win total. The Greyhounds have since lost to St. Joseph's and American. Mount St. Mary's moved to 2-0 last week by beating East Carolina, the defending champion in the Colonial Athletic Association.

"I knew early on we were better than we've been in recent years," said Phelan, whose 40-year record is 708-365. Phelan is 49-22 against the Greyhounds -- he's been around for half of the 142 games in the series -- and Prosser will be the eighth Loyola coach he's worked against.

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