After the Loyola basketball team lost its ninth straight game, to St. Peter's on Sunday, coach Brian Ellerbe and his players decided it was time to make some changes.
"We knew we shouldn't be losing the way we were," said junior guard Mike Powell. "The coaches changed some of the plays, some guys changed shoes, and I changed uniform numbers from 22 to 5 -- the number I wore last year."
Whatever, it worked wonders for Powell and the Greyhounds in last night's 85-76 victory over Siena in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at Reitz Arena.
Powell scored a career-high 35 points and hit 12 of 15 shots, including six of seven from three-point range, and had a personal-high 11 rebounds as Loyola registered its 1,000th basketball victory in the program's 85-year history.
For Ellerbe, it was a huge relief.
"I know we're not as bad as our record shows," he said. "But you're still talking about kids and they hear a lot of negative things when things aren't going well. This had to lift our spirits."
Ellerbe made a point before the game of telling Powell, an All-MAAC choice last season, to be more of a leader.
"Mike knows he has to step up and take command out there," Ellerbe said. "He knows we're still playing short-handed. Tonight, at different times, he played point guard, shooting guard and small forward."
Powell, who missed numerous practices while hampered by tendinitis and the flu over the first half of the season, came out firing.
He combined with senior forward Anthony Smith (18 points) to hit 11 of 14 shots in the first half to stake Loyola (3-10, 1-2) to a 44-32 lead.
"I saw a lot of different faces guarding me during the game," Powell said of his record effort. "I shot more threes than usual, but I got a lot of open looks.
"Coach Ellerbe wanted me to come out aggressive and get my rhythm. I looked for my shots early, and they just started falling."
Every time Siena (5-7, 0-3) made a run at the Greyhounds, Powell would stem the rally with a timely basket or assist.
The Saints closed to 44-38 by making consecutive three-pointers to start the second half. Powell answered with a three-pointer and a bank shot. After Smith and Siena's Melvin Freeny matched baskets, Powell made a three-point play off an acrobatic layup to give Loyola a 54-40 cushion.
Loyola's lead ballooned to 65-48 before Siena used the shooting of Marcus Faison and Freeny to trim the margin to 66-58 with 6: 36 left.
Powell then converted two free throws and, a minute later, hit a fadeaway jumper to make it 72-61, and Loyola eased to its first win since beating American on Dec. 4.
"Because of all his physical problems, Mike has missed a lot of work," Ellerbe said. "He's really just playing himself into shape."
That seems like a frightening thought to the rest of Loyola's MAAC rivals.
Pub Date: 1/16/97