Iona leashes 'Hounds in half-bad semi, 69-58 Its stars contained, Loyola fails to beat poor first half

March 02, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

ALBANY, N.Y. -- In the first half, they were simply dreadful. In the second half, they played respectably, even efficiently at times, but it wasn't enough to rescue them from the horrendous start.

So, the Loyola Greyhounds bowed out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournament last night, losing to top seed Iona, 69-58, in the semifinals at Pepsi Arena.

This was the team Loyola (12-16) had upset at home a month earlier to end the nation's longest winning streak at 15.

But almost nothing went right for the Greyhounds in the first half yesterday.

Center Roderick Platt, who had a big game in the quarterfinal win over Niagara in overtime, couldn't find the basket. Flashy point guard Jason Rowe pressed and tried to do everything himself. Iona's defense threw a blanket over the MAAC's top scorer Mike Powell.

"To start, we wanted to win so badly, we were a little bit tight," said Loyola coach Dino Gaudio. "I thought we lost our composure a little bit."

The result was a 30-18 halftime deficit, 12 turnovers, 20 percent first-half shooting and a combined 3-for-20 performance by the big three. The coach even benched Rowe twice to try to calm down the sophomore.

"I can't remember playing more poorly in the first half, yet we were still there," said Gaudio.

The halftime session was obviously productive. By using a combination of driving to the basket to draw fouls on offense and a zone defense, the Greyhounds slowly creeped back into the game.

With Rowe, Powell and Platt continuing to have problems, Loyola found a hot hand in freshman Jamal Hunter, who finished with a career-high 27 points.

"I was trying to do everything I could to help us along," said Hunter, who made two three-pointers and added a conventional three-point play during the run that got Loyola to within 55-52 with 4 1/2 minutes left.

"Coach told everybody to drive and try to draw contact, so that's what I did."

But the player who left Loyola after two seasons, Iona point guard John McDonald, repulsed the counterattack with two key drives and four free throws and Iona won going away.

"I just wanted to keep the game under control and not let them get the momentum," said McDonald. "It's real important that we win here. We don't want to have any questions about an NCAA bid."

There has been speculation that the Gaels (26-5), with road wins at Providence and Rutgers, might receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if they are upset here. In tonight's championship, they meet Siena, which defeated Manhattan, 77-71, in last night's other MAAC semifinal.

Iona coach Tim Welsh credited his team's overall defense and superior depth for moving the school into its first MAAC title game since 1991.

"The bench was important because the starters got rest and it sustained the defensive effort for us," he said. "And yesterday [Saturday], Loyola had an overtime game and played a lot of minutes."

Powell and Rowe, the second-highest scoring backcourt in the country, combined for 105 points in the two previous meetings. Last night, they collected only 14 between them on 4-for-20 shooting from the field.

"Mike and Jason want to put the team on their shoulders and carry it by themselves sometimes," said Gaudio. "Sometimes you have to trust your teammates."

McDonald had 17 points -- and no turnovers -- to lead Iona, which got 14 points from reserve Phil Grant and 15 points and 10 rebounds from MAAC Player of the Year Kashif Hameed.

LOYOLA -- Carroll 1-2 2-3 4, Hunter 10-20 3-7 27, Platt 3-9 5-6 11, Powell 2-8 4-5 8, Rowe 2-12 2-2 6, Blosser 0-2 0-0 0, Nasiou 0-0 2-2 2, Schaefer 0-0 0-0 0, Mack 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-54 18-25 58.

IONA -- Kirksay 5-9 2-4 12, Kresta 0-3 0-0 0, Hameed 5-11 5-7 15, Mitchell 3-9 0-1 6, McDonald 6-12 4-4 17, Grant 7-12 0-0 14, Miller 1-1 1-4 3, Young 0-3 0-0 0, Armistead 0-2 0-0 0, Dunmore 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-63 12-20 69.

Halftime--Iona 30-18. 3-point goals--Loyola 4-12 (Hunter 4-7, Powell 0-2, Rowe 0-3), Iona 1-16 (McDonald 1-5, Young 0-1, Armistead 0-1, Kresta 0-1, Grant 0-2, Kirksay 0-2, Mitchell 0-4). Fouled out--Carroll. Rebounds--Loyola 34 (Platt 7, Carroll 7), Iona 45 (Hameed, 10). Assists--Loyola 8 (Hunter 2, Powell 2, Rowe 2, Blosser 2), Iona 13 (Mitchell 3, McDonald 3). Total fouls--Loyola 21, Iona 23.

MAAC men's tournament

At Albany, N.Y.

Friday's first round

Manhattan 66, St. Peter's 55

Marist 74, Fairfield 73, OT

Saturday's quarterfinals

Loyola 85, Niagara 80, OT

Iona 76, Marist 55

Manhattan 71, Rider 58

Siena 87, Canisius 83, OT

Yesterday's semifinals

Iona 69, Loyola 58

Siena 77, Manhattan 71

Today's championship

Iona vs. Siena, 7: 30 p.m., ESPN

Pub Date: 3/02/98

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