Greyhounds get late start, early exit, 53-43 Loyola digs 12-0 hole, can't climb out vs. Niagara

March 02, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Depth wasn't a hindrance for Loyola at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament after all.

Instead of trying to win three games in as many days with a seven-man rotation, the third-seeded Greyhounds have nine months to rest for their next game, as their season ended in a thud last night at the Marine Midland Arena, 53-43, to Niagara.

It was the lowest point total of the season for Loyola (13-14), which had been the hottest team in the MAAC over the past month. The last of the quarterfinals started at 10: 20 p.m., more than an hour later than scheduled, and the Greyhounds were also tardy, as they never overcame an early 12-0 deficit.

Loyola's three star players never found their rhythm. Senior forward Anthony Smith, one of the slickest players in the conference, put up two air balls and shot 3-for-12. Mike Powell, the all-MAAC guard, didn't score in the first half and threw a lob pass off the back of the rim in the second.

Jason Rowe? The Wunderkind point guard, an all-rookie selection, saw his happy homecoming turn into a horror show. Considered by some to be the best player from Buffalo since Christian Laettner of Duke and the Atlanta Hawks, Rowe didn't score in the first 39 minutes and committed a season-high nine turnovers.

"He wanted to do so well for Buffalo, and he took himself out of the game," Loyola coach Brian Ellerbe said. "Defensively, we didn't play awful, but you can't win anything scoring 43 points."

Niagara (10-16) advanced to the second semifinal at 8 o'clock tonight against local rival and second-seeded Canisius, which routed Siena, 84-44. The other half of the draw also took a hit, as regular-season champion Iona was beaten, 80-71, by Fairfield, the eighth seed. Fairfield meets St. Peter's, a 51-48 winner over Manhattan, in the first semifinal.

The championship game is at 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow.

The surprising loss continued a lame Loyola tradition at the MAAC tournament. The Greyhounds entered the MAAC in 1989, and only once have they survived the first round. In 1994, the Greyhounds posted several stirring upsets that earned the school its only bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.

Niagara had lost 11 of its past 14 games in the regular season. Loyola looked more like the team that began the season 2-10 instead of the one that came here with a five-game win streak, the program's longest in five years.

The Purple Eagles got 16 points from sophomore guard Jeremiah Johnson and 13 from senior forward Chris Watson. Niagara, which had lost eight straight to the Greyhounds, dictated the style.

"The last two times we played them, we tried finesse," coach Jack Armstrong said. "Tonight, we were going to play as ugly as possible. We wanted to go right at them."

Loyola came out of its slumber some in the second half, but every time they had a chance to climb within one or get a tie, the Greyhounds committed another blunder.

Smith's three-point play got them within 34-31 with 11: 12 left, but Niagara scored the next five points. Down three, Loyola turned the ball over, this one by freshman swingman Darren Kelly on a break with 3: 29 left. It was just one of three costly turnovers in the last four minutes.

Loyola trailed 27-18 at the half, but the Greyhounds were grateful to be that close, as they fell behind 12-0 and didn't get a single point from their award-winning backcourt of Powell and Rowe in the first 20 minutes.

Niagara started a big lineup. Sophomore center Kevin Jobity muscled his way inside for three baskets, but Loyola was also susceptible on the perimeter, as Niagara turned careless Greyhound ball-handling into two other easy buckets.

Loyola finally scored with 4: 57 elapsed on Erik Cooper's three-pointer from the top of the key. The Greyhounds trailed by 25-12 before freshman center Roderick Platt, who led Loyola with 10 points, keyed a mini-run before the half.

MAAC tournament

At Buffalo, N.Y.

First round

Yesterday

Fairfield 80, Iona 71

St. Peter's 51, Manhattan 48

Canisius 84, Siena 44

Niagara 53, Loyola 43

Semifinals

Today

Fairfield vs. St. Peter's, 6 p.m.

Canisius vs. Niagara, 8: 30 p.m.

Championship

Tomorrow

Semifinal winners, 7: 30 p.m.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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