Greyhounds come up short again, 68-63

Iona sends Loyola to seventh straight loss and 10th in 11 games

January 14, 2002|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Facing two-time defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona last night, host Loyola College again showed off the vast potential of its young lineup.

Once again, however, it wasn't quite enough.

After leading the conference favorites for much of the first half, and pulling to within two with just over a minute left, the Greyhounds faded down the stretch in a 68-63 loss.

Coming off Thursday's triple-overtime loss to Siena and a five-point loss to conference power Manhattan earlier this month, the latest setback - Loyola's seventh straight and 10th in 11 games - left coach Scott Hicks scratching his head.

"I thought this was a tale of two halves," Hicks said. "I thought we played about as well as we can play in the first half, but in the second half they just shut us down. If we just do one more thing well, like shooting foul shots, we probably have two more wins."

Despite a career-high 29 points by forward Donovan Thomas, the most from a Loyola player since Jason Rowe notched 35 against UMBC in November 1999, the Greyhounds (2-12 overall, 1-4 MAAC) were 11 of 17 from the line and were out-rebounded, 45-25, by the more athletic Gaels (7-10, 4-2).

Trailing 44-40, Iona, which was led by 6-foot-9 center Greg Jenkins (27 points), used a 10-0 run, punctuated by seven straight points by forward Maceo Wofford, to take the lead for good.

Still, the Greyhounds, who forced a season-high 25 turnovers, were never out of it until the final moments.

After surrendering the lead with just under 14 minutes to play, Loyola battled back from an eight-point deficit with 3:54 left to make it 63-61 on B.J. Davis' steal and layup with 1:20 left. From there, however, Iona sealed the win by holding Loyola to one field goal, an inconsequential layup at the buzzer by Thomas, in the final 1:21.

With a chance to cut the lead to one with 32 seconds left, the Greyhounds' Lucious Jordan was stripped on the way up for a jumper. Moments later, after Iona's Dyree Wilson made the first of two foul shots, Wofford grabbed the offensive rebound, was fouled and hit both shots from the line, sealing the win.

"We can take this loss as a definite learning experience," Thomas said. "Our guys came out and played hard, but a couple times we had little lapses. At crucial moments, shots didn't fall for us."

For Iona coach Jeff Ruland, a former standout forward for the Washington Bullets, the game was just the latest case of his team failing to play hard from the outset.

"A lot of these guys had nothing to do with these last two championships. They don't understand that you've got a bull's eye on your back and you have to earn it," Ruland said. "That's been a problem for us all year, and it's been driving me crazy."

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