Greyhounds two games short of record losses
BALTIMORE -- As the game drew to a close, the crowd began chanting in unison. When the final buzzer sounded, the students eagerly rushed the court and mobbed the players.
It had been more than a year since Loyola won a basketball game, so the fans can be forgiven for their overzealous celebration Thursday night.
With a 63-57 victory over Marist, Loyola snapped a 31-game losing streak and put an end to a run of futility that nearly earned the Greyhounds an unwanted place in the NCAA record book.
Loyola narrowly avoided the NCAA mark for successive losses with its first victory since Jan. 19, 2003. Grambling lost 33 in a row from Dec. 6, 1999 to Dec. 16, 2000.
"It's a big sense of relief," Loyola coach Scott Hicks said. "There was a lot of happiness in our locker room tonight."
Charlie Bell scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half for the Greyhounds (1-18, 1-9 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), who handed Marist (5-13, 3-6) its fourth straight defeat.
"I feel horrible for our team," Marist assistant coach Stephen Sauers said.
It all added up to a rare victory for the Greyhounds, who had lost 10 straight to Marist.
"It's a tough loss because of the circumstances," Marist coach Dave Magarity said. "At some point, you knew they were going to win a game. There were a lot of teams they could have beaten, should have beaten."
Had the Greyhounds not defeated Marist, they faced the prospect of facing the top two teams in the MAAC (St. Peter's and Manhattan) in their next two games.
But after getting plenty of unwanted national notoriety in recent weeks, Loyola was all too eager to end the embarrassing skid.
"This is a big weight off my back," guard Jamaal Dixon said. "I was happy for my teammates, and happy for the students." After the Greyhounds let a 10-point lead dwindle to 56-54, Dixon scored on a drive and later made two free throws for a six-point lead with 42 seconds left.
The boisterous fans stood for the final seconds, chanting, "It's all over!" shortly before the final buzzer.
"The crowd was a big part of our energy tonight," Hicks said.
A three-point play by Bell put the Greyhounds up by 10 with 18:37 remaining, but Loyola made only two baskets over the next seven minutes while Marist closed to 38-37.
Loyola's Sean Corrigan then sank a 3-pointer and Bell followed with a driving layup for a six-point cushion. During the ensuing time-out, Bell exhorted the small but spirited crowd by waving his arms upward.
Loyola limited the Red Foxes to 32 percent shooting and closed the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 30-23 lead. It was the seventh time this season the Greyhounds led at halftime, including their first meeting with Marist -- a 64-48 defeat.
This time, however, Loyola held on.
"I have a lot of respect for our players," Hicks said. "They've gone through a lot."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press