The numbers won't divulge it as being a career game for Jason Rowe. But of this there was little doubt last night at Reitz Arena, all things considered.
Whatever it takes to win a basketball game, especially against a team carrying the nation's longest winning streak (15), Rowe did as Loyola knocked off Iona, 91-82.
Iona hadn't lost since Dec. 5, in overtime at Manhattan, and stands at 19-4 and 10-2 atop the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Loyola (10-11, 8-5) solidified its hold on second place in the MAAC.
The Greyhounds gained the advantage early in the second half as first Rowe, then his backcourt partner Mike Powell, took turns frustrating the Gaels.
"It's my best game, no doubt, because of the situation: big game, big crowd and No. 1 going against No. 2," Rowe said. "So it isn't Duke vs. North Carolina, but No. 1 against No. 2 in any conference is huge.
"This worked out well for us because we wanted to let them know they're not unbeatable. Maybe the rest of the MAAC will see that."
Rowe finished with 25 points, but it was everything else the sophomore did that had the 2,025 on hand gasping. Only 5 feet 10, he had seven rebounds, including two of the biggest in the game when the visitors closed to 66-61 with 4: 40 remaining.
Immediately before that, Rowe had hit one of his three three-pointers, hit center Rod Platt underneath for an easy two and made his third steal and went in to score.
Until Rowe and Powell, who finished with 29 points, took over, coach Dino Gaudio said, "It was the way we rebounded and kept them from getting cheap hoops in transition that meant so much for us."
All week long, the coach put the pressure on his players by pointing out that this was a "national game" because of Iona's winning streak.
Said Gaudio: "Before the game, I was telling them what Dan Patrick would be saying on [ESPN's] 'SportsCenter' and they all got a good laugh out of it. It relaxed them, I think, but they certainly knew how important it was for us."
Powell gloried in the revenge factor.
"It seems like we've lost a hundred games in a row to them," the senior said. "And they have John McDonald, who played here [before transferring to Iona], and we've been going back and forth on this for a while. This takes some of the pressure off."
Powell wasn't happy with his shooting -- "Six-for-20, that's awful," he said about his field-goal attempts. Then he moved to free throws, noted 16-for-16 (a conference mark) and said, "I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em."
But this night didn't belong to the fifth leading scorer in the country, who is averaging 24.3 per game.
"That's the best I've seen Jason play," said Powell, "and that's FTC saying something."
Ever the psychologist, Gaudio said: "We handled adversity well when we lost five straight games at the start of the season. Now let's see how we handled winning [four in a row]."
Arizona, the defending national champion, now has the nation's longest winning streak at 12 games.
IONA -- Kirksay 4-8 4-4 13, Kresta 1-6 0-0 2, Hameed 5-6 3-4 13, Mitchell 1-9 0-0 3, McDonald 12-21 1-5 29, Grant 1-2 0-0 2, Armistead 1-2 2-2 4, Harrison 2-4 1-2 6, Cheatham 0-0 0-0 0, Young 2-2 0-0 6, Dunmore 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 31-63 11-17 82.
LOYOLA -- Carroll 1-3 6-10 8, Blosser 1-5 0-0 2, Platt 6-9 1-4 13, Hunter 4-9 4-7 12, Powell 6-20 16-16 29, Rowe 9-16 4-4 25, Nasiou 0-1 2-2 2, Schaefer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 33-43 91.
Halftime--LC 40-37. 3-point goals--I 9-26 (McDonald 4-8, Young 2-2, Hameed 1-9, Harrison 1-3, Kirksay 1-3, Armistead 0-1); LC 4-17 (Rowe 3-8, Powell 1-6, Hunter 0-2, Blosser 0-1). Fouled out--Mitchell. Rebounds--I 37 (Kresta, McDonald 6); LC 40 (Platt 13). Assists--I 17 (Mitchell 5); LC 15 (Rowe 5). Total fouls--I 26, LC 19. A--2,025.
Pub Date: 2/05/98