Loyola's Mike Powell has some unsettling news for Greyhounds opponents: He's getting accustomed to playing point guard.
Starting his seventh straight game at the point, Powell guided Loyola to a 71-65 come-from-behind victory over Niagara yesterday at Reitz Arena with his scoring, passing and well-timed defense. Powell, a 6-foot-2 sophomore transfer from Virginia, finished with game highs of 24 points, five assists and four steals.
The Greyhounds (5-9, 2-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) have won four of their past six games and handed the Purple Eagles (8-7, 3-1) their first conference defeat.
"I think this is the first game I've played like a point guard," said Powell, who was shifted from shooting guard after starting point guard John McDonald left school. "Earlier this year, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Now I'm playing under control and feeling more confident."
Powell, who had made 30 percent of his shots in the past three games, connected yesterday on eight of 13 shots, including three of five three-pointers. But Loyola coach Brian Ellerbe was more impressed with Powell's overall game.
"Mike Powell finally let the game come to him," Ellerbe said. "He did so much for us -- score, play point guard and rebound. My hat's off to him."
Trailing the entire second half -- at one point by nine points -- Powell sent a pass over the Niagara zone defense to Teron Owens, who hit a three-pointer while being fouled. Owens' four-point play gave Loyola a 50-49 lead with 7:56 left, its first since 16:53 of the first half.
The lead changed three more times until Powell found his groove. He scored 10 points in the last 5 1/2 minutes and ran the offense to near-perfection as Loyola scored on its final nine possessions. Powell then secured the victory with 1:48 left in the game.
Holding a 65-61 advantage with the shot clock at four seconds, Powell quickly drove to the top of the circle but momentarily lost control of the ball as he took the shot. However, he regained control and hit his second straight three-pointer for a seven-point lead with 1:48 remaining.
"Powell made the shots at the end," Niagara coach Jack Armstrong said. "We had a hand in his face almost the entire game. Players who can hit shots from 20 feet away with a guy on you is rare at our level and especially our league."
In the first half, the Greyhounds looked ragged. They turned the ball over on five straight possessions to ignite an 11-0 Niagara run.
But Loyola turned the game around in the second half.
The Greyhounds held Niagara to 32 percent (eight of 25) shooting in the second half after switching from a match-up zone to a man-to-man defense. Offensively, Loyola converted almost half of its shots (13 of 27) and committed just four turnovers.