Loyola 63, Navy 57

Loyola's R.J. williams cuts off Navy's Earl McLaurin during the first half. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun / January 2, 2014)

After back-to-back losses to Patriot League foes Army and American last week, the Loyola men's basketball team needed something to get enthused about. That motivation came in the form of back-to-back home wins against conference rivals Lehigh on Saturday and Lafayette on Monday.

“We were looking to get home, and we got into our comfort zone,” said coach G.G. Smith, whose Greyhounds improved to 8-8 overall, 3-2 in the league and 5-2 at Reitz Arena. “We play well at home. [Senior shooting guard] Dylon [Cormier] came to play and [senior power forward] Jordan Latham came to play. We felt the energy, especially on Monday night. It was the first day back for the students, and we had a great crowd, about 1,000 students at the game. It was loud and they brought the energy and we played well.”

Loyola – which sits in fifth place in the Patriot League standings – played better ball in several categories against the Mountain Hawks and Leopards. The offense shot 52.4 percent (54-of-103) from the floor and recorded 31 assists, while the defense limited those two teams to 42.3 percent (47-of-111) shooting and 28 assists. The Greyhounds also won the rebounding battle, 71-54.

Smith said there was another factor that contributed to Loyola’s victories.

“Another stat we keep is before those two games, we shot the ball too early in the shot clock,” he said. “We were shooting the ball 17 seconds into the shot clock. In these last couple games, we’ve been shooting into the 20s. We’re running our offense, reversing the ball a couple times, being patient, making the defense work, and taking better shots off the penetration and off our post presence. Jordan Latham has established himself in the post the last two games. And we’ve been rebounding. We weren’t rebounding the ball, and then in the last two games, we’re outrebounding our opponents. That’s the difference. When you can outrebound and dominate the post and be patient on offense, you can win some games. No one piece is bigger than the other. I think it all comes together, and I think Monday was the first time all season that we played a complete 40 minutes.”

Speaking of Latham, the 6-foot-8, 243-pound City graduate was on the receiving end of some criticism from Smith last week for not being more dominant in the middle. Latham posted 14 points and six rebounds against Lehigh and 12 points and six rebounds against Lafayette, which delighted Smith.

“I just told him that he’s got to play like he’s 6-8,” Smith said. “I told him there are a lot of opportunities for him. We’re a couple games into conference play, and he’s one of the better big men in this league and he has to act like it. I think he accepted that challenge from the coaching staff and he responded. That’s on us as coaches. Sometimes you have to challenge a guy and hope that he responds in a positive way.”