Siena point guard Doremus Bennerman apparently took great satisfaction during his team's blowout win over Loyola last week -- and wasn't bashful in letting Greyhounds point guard Tracy Bergan know it.
"They were winning and he did a lot of jawing," Bergan recalled of the game in Loudonville, N.Y. "I couldn't say anything because they won. But I knew playing him again, there would be extra incentive."
And Bergan's payback was sweet: He had 22 points, 10 assists and five steals -- all while holding Bennerman to 10 points -- as the Greyhounds ended a four-game losing streak with a 76-68 victory over Siena, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader, before 576 at Reitz Arena.
More important than payback, the Greyhounds kept from dropping to 0-3 in the MAAC. To do it, they had to break Siena's four-game winning streak and, in doing so, Loyola registered its first victory over a first-place team in its three years in the league.
"I wouldn't call it a desperate game for us, but it was a very important one," said Loyola coach Tom Schneider. "To win this league, you have to win your home games. We gave away one earlier this year, here against Manhattan, and we can't let that happen again."
After falling behind in the early minutes, Loyola took the lead for good at 13-12 after a three-pointer by Bergan less than nine minutes into the game. Bergan went on to score 13 points during a 17-6 Loyola run. He would convert two more three-pointers before Loyola's lead reached 30-18.
By the half, Bergan had hit eight of 10 shots (including all three of his three-point shots), and Loyola, playing most of the half without leading scorer Michael Reese (three fouls) had a 43-29 lead.
"I was so psyched up," said Bergan, who has averaged 8.5 points a game this season. "I hadn't been shooting well and, since we're on break, I've been coming into the gym at night for extra practice."
At the start of the second half, the Greyhounds missed their first seven shots from the field (Kevin Green's two free throws were the only points in the first four minutes), and Siena pulled within 45-38. But then freshman forward Brian Pendleton got hot, scoring eight straight points during a 10-4 run that helped the Greyhounds increase their lead to 55-42.
"Since [Reese] was in foul trouble, I felt I had to bring my game to a higher level," said Pendleton, who scored 12. "The zone they were playing was a trapping one, [designed] to force turnovers, and I just eased behind it and [Bergan] found me."
Siena's pressing defense began to give Loyola problems, and the lead was later cut to 68-64 on a three-pointer by Joe Middleton with 2:31 left. But Reese and Green (21 points) scored on back-to-back dunks for Loyola to put the game away.
"It was a big game, because you never want to start 0-3 and be in the basement," said Green. "Siena was in first place, and they blew us out last week. You never want to get blown out by the same team, especially on your home court."
After two frustrating losses to Princeton and at Richmond, the Greyhounds are hoping the end of the losing streak against the league's top team turns into the turning point of the season.
"Before the game, Coach told us, 'I'm tired of hearing that we're playing well -- we want to win some games too,' " Bergan said. "This was a big game for us, but we can't get too high from this. Every game we have to get better and better."