It's tired and banged up, but the last thing Loyola's streaking basketball team wants is a week off.
Freshman forward Brian Pendleton's three-point play with three seconds remaining beat Iona, 62-61, yesterday at Reitz Arena and completed the Greyhounds' late-season resurrection. The win secured a fourth-place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for the Greyhounds, who were notching their sixth straight victory for the first time in eight years and moving over .500 for the first time this season.
All that momentum will be put on the shelf during a week-long layoff that coincides with spring break. Loyola (14-13, 10-6) is off until next Saturday, when it goes after its first postseason victory in five years at the MAAC tournament in Albany, N.Y. The Greyhounds will get another game with Iona (13-13, 8-7), after Siena's victory last night over Niagara.
Loyola beat Iona without sophomore forward Michael Reese, the Greyhounds' top rebounder and second-leading scorer who was resting a mild ankle sprain. The week off will help Reese, and coach Tom Schneider's Greyhounds weren't in the mood to complain about anything after avenging a Jan. 11 loss at Iona in which they were outscored 16-0 in the second half at the free throw line.
"As hot as we are, you want to keep playing, but I could use a few days off to relax," said Kevin Green, who scored a game-high 25 points in his final appearance at Reitz Arena. "It was not one of our better games during the streak, but we'll take it. I didn't think I'd ever get picky about wins."
Green, the 6-foot-4 guard out of Dunbar High with the deadly jumper off the dribble, saw Loyola win 14 games in his first two seasons. Now he's leading the hottest team in the MAAC, and the longer Loyola keeps playing, the better his chances of becoming the Greyhounds' all-time leading scorer. He has 2,142 career points, 57 behind the 2,199 Jim Lacy amassed from 1945-49.
The six-game win streak is Loyola's longest since it won eight straight in 1965. The last four in the current streak came at Reitz Arena, where the Greyhounds finished 10-5, but a constant, home and away, in February has been strong defense. Against Iona, for example, Loyola made just 37.3 percent of its field goal attempts, but held held Iona to 42.9.
Pendleton, who had a career-high 16 rebounds, was 1-9 from the field before his game-winning three-point play. Down 61-59 after five straight Iona points, junior point guard Tracy Bergan's eighth assist of the day and 176th of the season found Pendleton with room to move on the right baseline. His lay-in tied it, and when Corey Taylor was called for the foul, Pendleton made the game-winning free throw.
The Gaels took a time out at midcourt with one second remaining, and Danny Golombiewski's 22-footer from the right of the key nearly banked in.
Green, who was honored before the game along with fellow senior Kevin Anderson, a forward out of Loyola High, scored 16 points in the first half, when the Greyhounds led by as many as 10. He was 5 for 11 from three-point range, and Loyola was 10 for 29 against a tight Iona zone.
Green's short jumper from the right baseline made it 42-36 with 16:02 left, but senior guard Derrick Canada caught fire for the Gaels. Canada, who had 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting, scored 11 straight for a 53-49 Iona lead, which grew to 56-49 with 7:04 remaining. The Gaels had just two baskets the rest of the way, however, as Loyola kept the opposition below 67 points for the ninth time in the last 11 games.
IONA -- Mustafaj 6-14 1-2 14, Taylor 1-5 0-1 3, Hart 2-5 5-12 9, Canada 9-13 5-6 24, Lewis 1-4 1-2 3, Cooper 1-2 0-0 2, Houston 0-2 0-0 0, Goodwine 0-1 2-2 2, Golombiewski 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 21-49 16-27 61.
LOYOLA -- Pendleton 2-10 6-9 10, K. Anderson 2-10 0-0 5, Credle 1-3 0-0 2, Bergan 5-13 0- 0 13, Green 10-19 0-0 25, Sereikas 1-1 0-0 2, Malone 0-1 0-0 0, C. Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Sparzak 1-2 2-2 5. Totals 22-59 8-11 62.
Halftime--Loyola 35, Iona 30. 3-point goals--Iona 3-10 (Taylor 1-1, Canada 1-2, Mustafaj 1-4, Lewis 0-1, Houston 0-1, Golombiewski 0-1), Loyola 10- 29 (Green 5-11, Bergan 3-9, K. Anderson 1-8, Sparzak 1-1). Rebounds--Iona 35 ( Hart 10), Loyola 38 (Pendleton 16). Assists--Iona 10 (Mustafaj 3), Loyola 16 ( Bergan 8). Total fouls--Iona 14, Loyola 21. Fouled out--None. Attendance--1,026.