Loyola's skid: 31 and done

Greyhounds get 63-57 win over Marist, stop 2 short of tying Division I record

Hicks: `A big sense of relief'

Bell scores 20 of his 25 in second half

fans rush home court in celebration

January 30, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

A year of frustration is finally over for the Loyola men's basketball team.

After 31 consecutive defeats - two short of tying the NCAA Division I record - the Greyhounds were victorious last night, beating Marist, 63-57, before the most vociferous Reitz Arena crowd of the season.

It was the team's first victory since Jan. 19, 2003, when Loyola topped Rider, 74-69, in overtime - also on its home court.

The student-dominated crowd of 2,311 mobbed the players in a jubilant midcourt celebration after it was assured that Grambling State's record of 33 straight losses would not be toppled.

"It's a big weight off my back," said freshman guard Jamaal Dixon, whose driving score after Marist had crept within 56-54 with 2:45 remaining was probably Loyola's biggest basket of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game. "I am very happy. Saturday [at Saint Peter's], we're going to try to make it another streak [winning]."

Loyola (1-18, 1-9 MAAC) scored the final eight points of the first half to take a 30-23 lead at the break, marking the seventh time this season that the Greyhounds have led at halftime.

Thanks to improved depth with senior forward Lindbergh Chatman back on the floor and freshman forward Michael Tuck playing on a sprained ankle, Loyola did not run out of steam late in the game this time while handing Marist its fourth straight loss.

Marist (5-13, 3-6), which shot 33.8 percent from the field, made several threatening runs but couldn't sustain any rally.

"Every time we felt we could get over the hump, they answered," said Red Foxes coach Dave Magarity. "They only shot 40 percent, but it seemed like every time they needed a big one, they got it. We had every opportunity down the stretch and didn't do it."

Charlie Bell finished with 25 points, including 20 in the second half, to lead the Greyhounds, playing with fierce determination. His drives to the hoop were noticeable the entire second half.

"We knew the streak was on our heads, and we didn't want to lose," said Bell, a cousin of Maryland's Chris McCray. "We go into every game expecting to get a win."

Chatman blanketed one of Marist's top outside threats, guard Brandon Ellerbee, who went 0-for-10 from the field. Marist's other guard, freshman Jared Jordan, was 3-for-9 as Loyola switched defenses from man to zone, confusing the Red Foxes with the latter in the first half.

"I'm very proud of our team," said Loyola coach Scott Hicks. "When you lose by big numbers over a long period, a lot of negativity can creep into the program. I have a lot of respect for our players. They've gone through a lot for young people, and it would have been very easy for them to lose confidence and focus."

Marist had beaten the Greyhounds 10 straight times, including a 64-48 decision on Jan. 9 when the Greyhounds led by nine at the half but then scored just 16 points in the second half.

"We shot too many threes that game [30]," said Hicks, who credited last night's crowd with being "a big part of our energy."

The inspiration obviously transferred to the court as Loyola played hard and restricted the three-point shots when the driving lanes opened for Bell and Dixon.

Dixon contributed 11 points, and Bernard Allen had eight points and seven rebounds, equaling Bell's rebound total.

Marist's top scorer was former UMBC center Will McClurkin with 15 points. He also had a game-high nine rebounds.

Loyola had not beaten Marist since Jan. 27, 1999. The Greyhounds were coming off a loss at Fairfield in which they led 32-26 at halftime, then surrendered 22 consecutive points to start the second half. Loyola lost that one, 75-56, with Bell scoring 25 points.

Loyola's 31 consecutive defeats rank third on the all-time Division I list behind Grambling State's record of 33, and 32 by Cal State-Sacramento.

The Citadel and Prairie View are the only other teams to lose as many as 30 in a row.

"There is a big sense of relief," Hicks said. "A lot of happiness."

Magarity said: "I can't imagine anybody going through what they've been through with more class than Scott Hicks. I know they looked at this game and said there's one we can win if we put two halves together.

"I'm not embarrassed by this loss. It's great they got off that schneid. But the bottom line is they're 1-18 and we're 5-13."

End of the line

Loyola's losing streak, which ended last night at 31 games, was two behind Grambling State's NCAA record for Division I men's basketball:

No. School ............................. Dates

33 Grambling St. .................. 12/6/99-12/31/00

32 Cal St.-Sac. ...................... 12/6/93-12/28/94

31 Loyola .............................. 1/23/03-1/25/04

30 The Citadel ...................... 1/16/54-12/12/55

30 Prairie View ..................... 2/25/91-12/5/92

29 UMass ............................... 1/26/79-2/1/80

Source: NCAA

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