After 11 years in Division I, Loyola grabbed the big victory it has been looking for.
Xavier, a team that has been to six straight NCAA tournaments, was the victim last night at Reitz Arena, along with Pete Gillen, its highly regarded coach.
The underdog Greyhounds rallied from a 10-point, first-half deficit to defeat Xavier, 68-52, before 2,179.
"This is the kind of victory that should make people around here realize that we can beat the good teams and make them want to come out and watch us play," Loyola coach Tom Schneider said. "It was the best I've seen a Loyola team play in my three years here."
Schneider kept his cool in the first half, when Loyola was shooting poorly and went 7:33 without scoring and fell behind 21-11 with 4:10 left in the half.
He just kept rotating his players in and out the rest of the game and always seemed to have the right players on the floor at the right time.
Schneider also had his Greyhounds changing defenses the entire game against the Musketeers (11-7), creating a lot of confusion for a team that appeared to have more talent than the Greyhounds.
Gillen said: "We expected them to switch defenses, but we never reacted to what they were doing. I don't think we could have beaten anybody on our schedule the way we played."
Gillen said he wanted his team to get the ball inside against Loyola's zone defense, but it never worked out the right way.
"When we did get it inside, our big guys didn't do the job," said Gillen. "They were a step quicker than us all night. We ran into trouble every which way we turned. They were hungrier than us, and we didn't attack their man or zone defense."
Michael Reese, who led Loyola with 15 points, said: "We knew what offense they were going to run, so as soon as they called the play, we switched our defense. People are going to have to remember they can't come in here and walk over us."
Reese said the Greyhounds (8-12) hope to carry the momentum from last night's victory into the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament and possibly to an NCAA tourney bid.
"We've been close so many times to a big win [a one-point loss to Princeton at home this year and a four-point loss to Richmond on the road], but we've just come up a little short. Now we've arrived," said Reese.
Xavier, which leads the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, defeated Loyola by 19 in Cincinnati in December 1990.
"It was a quality win over a quality program and a good friend of mine in Pete Gillen," said Schneider. "I told our kids at halftime we were playing good defense and the shots would have to start falling sooner or later."
One of the right players Schneider had on the floor last night in the second half was Kevin Anderson, who hit back-to-back three-point shots to send the Greyhounds ahead 56-42 with 5:30 left in the game.
Anderson's shooting exhibition was part of a 13-0 Loyola run that ran the advantage to 59-42.
It came after Anderson had shot poorly in Monday night's loss to Towson State at Reitz. Anderson had a couple of three-point attempts that night that didn't come close.
"I just decided to keep on shooting," said Anderson.
Tracy Bergan also had a big night for Loyola, with 12 points, eight assists and four steals.
Anderson finished with 10 points coming off the bench, as Loyola proved it was much more than a one- or two-man team.
L Scoring leader Kevin Green was held to 10 points last night.