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Loyola powers past Niagara, 68-45 Second-half surge stops Eagles' streak


Niagara invaded Reitz Arena last night with a four-game winning streak, its first of that length since it joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference three seasons ago.

Then the Purple Eagles encountered a reality check and fell back to Earth.

Loyola had no trouble after a competitive first half and rolled to a 68-45 MAAC victory to open a four-game stand at home before the conference tournament.

The outcome sent the Greyhounds (11-13, 7-6) into a fifth-place tie with Niagara, which never was in the game after Loyola scored 11 of the first 14 second-half points.

"This was one of the better defensive efforts we've put forth," said Loyola coach Tom Schneider. "Our pressure took them out of the style of play they prefer."

That style is to bang it inside to 7-footers Clint Holtz and Sean Schiano and 6-8 forward Brian Clifford, a second-team All-MAAC pick last season.

It worked well for 20 minutes. Holtz and Clifford combined for 16 points and kept the Purple Eagles close. Thereafter, Niagara's lack of speed and outside shooting showed up glaringly.

"We got a lot of points off steals and fast breaks," said the Greyhounds' high scorer and rebounder Kevin Green. "The biggest thing was to pick up the tempo against them. We fronted the big men and kept them from going in there."

Green had 19 points, eight rebounds and a team-high five steals. Michael Reese chipped in 16 points. Niagara (13-11, 7-6) committed 22 turnovers and was distracted from its patterns by the swarming Greyhounds defense. It never got closer than 51-40 after the early minutes of the second half.

"This reminded me of the Xavier game," said Schneider. "The defense kept us there and we were able to get some things going offensively in the second half."

Loyola has won three straight and six of its past eight and appears to be in excellent position for a good seeding in the tournament.

"I've been happy the last month or so," said Schneider. "We've been playing pretty good basketball. Everybody's getting minutes and we really turned up the defense. When you're playing in the league is the time to do that."

Niagara, which entered the game leading the league with a 48.6 team field-goal percentage, settled for 34.6 (18 of 52) last night. Only Holtz (seven of nine, 17 points) was consistently effective.

And the Greyhounds had 18 assists on their 27 field goals, an excellent ratio to reflect team play.

"We're going good right now," said Green. "Winning the last two road games [at Manhattan and St. Peter's] helped a lot. We have a better edge."

The Purple Eagles had beaten Loyola, 76-73, at home Jan. 19, but this time fell victim to the Greyhounds' biggest margin of victory since a 109-77 romp over St. Francis (Pa.) in February 1989.

NIAGARA -- Robinson 0-4 1-2 1, Clifford 4-12 0-0 8, Holtz 7-9 3-6 17, Moore 0-4 0-0 0, Newsom 0-2 0-0 0, Daniel 2-4 2-2 6, Kell 1-4 2-2 5, Hartman 1-3 0-0 2, Schiano 2-3 0-0 4, Maples 0-1 0-0 0, Hocevar 0-1 0-0 0, Ramey 0-2 0-0 0, Bertram 1-3 0-1 2. Totals: 18-52 8-13 45.

LOYOLA -- Reese 5-14 6-9 16, Pendleton 4-6 1-4 9, Credle 3-5 0-0 6, Bergan 2-7 2- 2 6, Green 8-10 2-3 19, K. Anderson 2-5 0-0 4, Malone 1-4 0-0 2, Sereikas 0-2 0- 0 0, Sparzak 0-0 1-2 1, Binder 2-2 0-0 4, C. Anderson 0-1 1-2 1. Totals: 27-56 13-22 68.

Halftime--Loyola 32-26. 3-point goals--Niagara 1-7 (Kell 1-2, Moore 0-2, Maples 0-1, Ramey 0-1, Bertram 0-1); Loyola 1-5 (Green 1-1, Reese 0-2, Bergan 0-1 K. Anderson 0-1). Rebounds--Niagara 32 (Clifford 10); Loyola 36 (Green 8). Assists--Niagara 6 (Robinson, Clifford, Holtz, Newsome, Ramey, Bertram 1 each); Loyola 18 (Bergan 7). Total fouls--Niagara 18; Loyola 16. Fouled out--Bertram. A--1,349.

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