Red-hot Niagara tops Loyola

Brown scores 26, but 'Hounds fall in MAAC semifinal as Purple Eagles win 10th in row

Niagara 89 Loyola 79

March 05, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Reporter

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Loyola College was no match for a streaking Niagara team that knows its way around the postseason, as the Greyhounds were bounced out in the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last night, 89-79.

It was the most points allowed in regulation this season by Loyola, which trailed by 10 at the half, closed within seven midway through the second, but lagged again and fell behind by 19 with six minutes left.

"Their experience went to the NCAAs two years ago," Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said. "We won one game three years ago. We got a little panicky when we got down 10 and didn't come out as emotionally charged as I had hoped."

The third-seeded Greyhounds (18-13), who set a school record for wins in Division I, were in the MAAC semifinals for the first time since 1998.

The second-seeded Purple Eagles (21-11) have a 10-game winning streak and four starters who played in the NCAA tournament two years ago. They will try to earn another bid in the title game tonight against Siena.

Niagara pounded out a 41-23 rebounding advantage and took control with an 8-0 run in the first half that hinged on a technical foul charged to Patsos.

Friends, family and a few classmates remaining for the second semifinal at a barren Arena at Harbor Yard knew Niagara was in charge midway through the second half, when Lorenzo Miles took an inbounds pass with two seconds left on the shot clock and hit a 30-footer over Omari Isreal.

"I knew it was our night as a team, because everything was going good," Miles said.

That gave the Purple Eagles a 73-60 lead. It grew to 85-66 on a three-point play by Tyrone Lewis.

Loyola had its only lead in the sixth minute, when Gerald Brown's third three-pointer made it 12-11. The Baltimore native and All-MAAC first-teamer had a game-high 26 points despite a bruised left shoulder, as he soldiered on for the sake of seniors Josko Alujevic and Shane James.

"I felt I couldn't play tonight," Brown said, "but Shane said, `You've got to get me to the championship game.' I wanted to play not for myself, but for Josko and Shane."

Alujevic had 13 points and Hassan Fofana, who missed most of the season with a leg injury, scored a season-high 11, but Loyola made just one three-pointer over the last 30 minutes and got steamrollered by Niagara's collective talent and savvy.

Lewis, a freshman, tied his career high with 23 points off the bench, and Miles, a 5-foot-11 senior, added 22. Each was 8-for-12 from the field. Senior forward Clif Brown had 18 and Charron Fisher, a 6- -3, first team All-MAAC wing, chipped in with 16.

Loyola had won four of its five previous games but ran into the hottest team in the MAAC and had little bounce after beating Fairfield in Saturday's last quarterfinal.

Niagara was in the bonus situation before the game was 10 minutes old, and Patsos' objections to the officiating were noted with 7:31 left in the first half. For the second straight night and at least the 12th time this season, he got hit with a technical.

The two free throws helped the Purple Eagles turn a one-point game into a 30-21 lead. Niagara converted a pair of uncontested dunks in the final minute of the first half for a 47-37 halftime lead.

Loyola's only trip to the MAAC final came in 1994, when it made a surprise run as a fifth seed to its lone appearance in the NCAA tournament. That was Skip Prosser's only season in Baltimore; he got the Greyhounds' job over Joe Mihalich, who's now in his ninth year at Niagara.

In the first semifinal, Siena upset regular-season champion Marist, 86-78, behind 26 points from Kenny Hasbrouck, a sophomore guard who prepped a year at Cardinal Gibbons.

LOYOLA-Isreal 0-4 1-2 1, Alujevic 6-6 0-0 13, Brown 7-18 8-8 26, Harvey 1-3 4-5 6, Sullivan 2-9 4-5 8, Manning 2-3 1-1 5, Gaetani 0-0 0-0 0, James 0-0 0-0 0, Wright 0-0 0-0 0, Fofana 5-6 1-1 11, Tuck 3-6 3-4 9. Totals 26-55 22-26 79. NIAGARA-Duffey 0-4 0-0 0, Fisher 6-16 3-4 16, Brown 5-12 6-9 18, Miles 8-12 2-3 22, Brooks 0-1 2-2 2, Hodge 3-3 0-0 6, Egemonye 1-1 0-0 2, Lewis 8-12 7-7 23. Totals 31-61 20-25 89. Halftime-Niagara, 47-37. 3-point goals-Loyola 5-14 (Brown 4-7, Alujevic 1-1, Harvey 0-1, Manning 0-1, Sullivan 0-4); Niagara 7-26 (Miles 4-6, Brown 2-6, Fisher 1-7, Duffey 0-3, Lewis 0-3). Rebounds- Loyola 23 (Alujevic, Fofana 3); N 41 (Brown 13). Assists-Loyola 13 (Harvey 5); Niagara 7 (Miles 4). Total fouls- Loyola 23, Niagara 17. A-3,686.

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