History against Rowe in Loyola qualifying try

Greyhounds star at home in Buffalo for tournament, but Midland record weak

February 26, 1999|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN STAFF

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The good news for Jason Rowe, Loyola's talented point guard, is that he has come home to help launch the Greyhounds' bid for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The bad news is that he has never been on a team that has won at the site of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and is coming off one of his poorest performances of the season.

"There will be a section full of family and friends watching," said Rowe, a Buffalo native. "It's a great feeling to do something special in your hometown. But I'm like 0-4 or 0-5 in this [Marine Midland] arena."

Rowe, named first-team all-MAAC yesterday, carries a 21.6 scoring average into today's tournament-qualifying game between eighth-seeded Loyola and ninth-seeded Fairfield. He has shot nearly 51 percent from the field -- unusually high for a point guard-- and nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line.

He is a gifted player who has had an up-and-down season, and he was no more down than last Saturday, when coach Dino Gaudio benched him for most of the second half in a 103-86 beating by Niagara at Reitz Arena.

"I don't have any complaints about that," said Rowe. "With due respect to the coach, I was upset with myself that I wasn't playing well. Physically, I could have done a better job, especially on defense. I didn't like that feeling of being down on myself.

"The guys tried to keep me going, but it just wasn't me out there."

Gaudio fully expects his star to bounce back strongly.

"Leading up to that last week of the regular season [when the Greyhounds won seven of nine], I don't know of anybody who's played as well as Jason," said the coach. "But I really challenged the kids to win their defensive matchups and talked a lot about complacency.

"I know we're going to score, but I've got to put guys out there who can defend, because when we do, we're pretty successful. I wasn't pleased with Jason's defense against Niagara. I think Jason is a quality kid who will respond positively to the next challenge."

For his part, Rowe "made a promise" to his teammates. "I apologized especially to Roderick Platt because that was his last home game. I told him, `I won't let you down Friday.' "

If they defeat Fairfield, the Greyhounds are staring at another battle with top-seeded and home-standing Niagara tomorrow -- no easy task.

Rowe calls Fairfield "very, very physical, one of the hardest-playing teams in the conference. In the first game, we didn't match their intensity and they beat us [75-69 at Loyola], and in the second game they came out and went ahead 13-0, but we ended up winning [75-72 at Fairfield]."

Rowe scored 55 points in the two games.

Gaudio was encouraged about the prospects of his team, which had a three-game winning streak before losing to Canisius, then Niagara, at home, where the Greyhounds were only 5-9 this season.

"We were feeling pretty good about ourselves before Canisius took a little bit of wind out of us," he said. "But I think we can get back on track. Anybody can win this tournament. Having to play today makes it more difficult for us, but not impossible."

The key is which Greyhounds team shows up.

"We had a roller-coast year that was very disappointing," said Rowe. "I thought we were pretty talented and would make more noise. But we can't hold our heads. We have another chance."

While the men confront a tough assignment, Loyola's women will be one of the tournament favorites after finishing with a six-game winning streak.

The Greyhound women are experienced, senior-dominated and on a roll despite the absence of forward Erica Rath, who hasn't played since the 10th game after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in a knee.

Jennifer Bongard has started in her stead and is now averaging 10.4 points a game.

Third-seeded Loyola today encounters Iona in the quarterfinals after sweeping the Gaels during the regular season and beating them in the 1998 tournament.

MAAC tournament

Men

When: Today-Monday

Where: Marine Midland Arena (Buffalo, N.Y.)

TV: Quarterfinals and semifinals on Madison Square Garden Network; final on ESPN

Radio: None

Defending champion: Iona

Favorite: Niagara (top seed by virtue of beating Siena twice)

Dark horse: Rider (at full strength after seige of injuries)

MVP candidate: Alvin Young, Niagara (guard is flirting with national Division I scoring title)

Women

When: Yesterday-Sunday

Where: Marine Midland Arena (Buffalo, N.Y.)

TV: Semifinals and final on Madison Square Garden Network

Radio: None

Defending champion: Fairfield

Favorite: Siena (won regular-season title)

Dark horse: Loyola (comes in with six-game winning streak)

MVP candidate: Melanie Halker, Siena, led the league in scoring and rebounding

Pub Date: 2/26/99

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