Several Loyola and Fairfield players battle for a loose ball… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
The Loyola men's basketball team has played some great games as they've risen to the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings. Sunday's game at Reitz Arena will not be regarded as one of them.
Down by just four at the half, the Greyhounds (19-6, 12-3) were out-rebounded, out-hustled and out-everything-elsed in a MAAC loss to Fairfield (15-10, 10-4) 68-51.
Erik Etherly and Robert Olson lead the Greyhounds with 17 points apiece. Rakim Sanders led a very balanced Fairfield team with 13 points.
The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for the first-place Greyhounds, and left even Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos scratching his head.
"I was surprised at our lack of effort," said an obviously frustrated Patsos. "We usually win all of the 'hustle stats.' Today, we didn't win any of them."
The Greyhounds, coming off an emotional win over conference-power Iona on Friday, fell behind early and spent a good part of the first half clawing and scratching to catch up. When Fairfield's Derek Needham hit two free throws, Loyola found itself trailing 25-19 with 7:01 left in the half. Loyola scored seven of the next nine points to cut the deficit to 27-26 with 1:46 left to play. The 'Hounds had a few opportunities to tie the game or take the lead, but came up empty each time. The Stags got a field goal from Sanders and free throws from Jamel Fields to take a 31-27 lead at the break.
The second half was all Fairfield. On the first play, Sanders stole the ball from Etherly and hit Ryan Olander in stride for a 3-pointer for a seven-point lead. From there, the rout was on. Loyola scored four of the next 21 points to trail 51-31 with 11:03 left in the game.
"It was more us than it was them," Olson said. "We were our own worst enemies."
That turned out to be an understatement. Loyola shot just 4-for-23 from the field in the second half, and 13-for-46 on the game.
"I've been coaching for 23 years, and I've learned that when you play bad, that's just how it goes," Patsos said. "I'd call timeout and draw up a play, and we'd go out and do the exact opposite. I take responsibility for the loss, because I didn't prepare them well enough. Success is new to these kids, so it's my fault."
Loyola certainly did its part in the loss, but Fairfield also played well on the defensive end. The Stags packed the defense in close to the basket, forcing the 'Hounds to take outside shots. While Olson was 3-for-4 from the 3-point line (3-for-3 in the first half), Loyola finished just 3 of 11 on the game. The interior defense of the 7-foot Olander, the 6-foot-5 Sanders and Maurice Barrow gave Loyola fits.
"We threw a lot of things at them [defensively]," said Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson, a Towson Catholic graduate. "Olson hurt us in the first half, but we came up with a lot of loose-ball rebounds. I think that was the difference."
Asked if he would have his players watch film of the game, Patsos paused.
"That's a good question," he said. "Yeah, I think we probably will. Monday is our normal day off, and we will be off tomorrow. "Rest assured, things will be different on Tuesday, though."