The confidence dwindles as the losses pile up for Loyola.
The Greyhounds, who haven't been favored to win in two months, returned to Reitz Arena for their only home date in a five-game, 18-day span last night, but they needed more than friendly rims to stay with Siena. The Saints scored 12 straight points before and after halftime, and were never threatened in the second half of their 71-57 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory.
It was the fifth straight loss for Loyola (2-17, 1-9), which needs a couple of upsets to avoid the worst record at Evergreen in 56 years. The Greyhounds were 3-13 in 1936-37, and there weren't any easy games on the schedule to begin with.
The Greyhounds were 1-11 when Tom Schneider resigned a month ago, and they're 1-6 under interim coach Joe Boylan, the athletic director who wanted make the rest of the season as enjoyable as possible.
"The whole talk was about confidence," Boylan said after a five-minute pep talk to his team. "It wasn't about X's and O's. Their attitude has been unbelievable, and I have to keep our players believing that good things can happen, but it's not easy.
"Two things have to happen. They have to believe they're getting better, and, hopefully, you win a game. We were coming off a good effort [the Greyhounds were within one with five minutes left at MAAC leader Niagara], and then we're not ready at the start tonight."
Loyola was unsure of itself at both ends against Siena (12-8, 5-2), the third-place team in the MAAC. Four of the Saints' five conference wins are against Loyola and St. Peter's, the two worst teams in the MAAC. Siena picked apart Loyola's zone, making 10 of 19 three-pointers, and defensively the Saints held B. J. Pendleton to 15 points on 4-for-12 shooting.
"There are some good players here, but not much continuity," Siena coach Mike Deane said. "Whether the [Schneider's] resignation was forced or not, it makes for a difficult situation. Not too many more things can go wrong here."
Sophomore guard Matt Gabriel typified Loyola's performance. Gabriel kept the Greyhounds afloat with 13 points in the last eight minutes of the first half, but there was no carry-over. He had one basket in the second half, and missed a breakaway layup when the Greyhounds were threatening to make it close.
"It's hard to be confident right now," Gabriel said. "I really thought we'd be up after giving Niagara a game, but we were really flat."
Siena scored the first five points of the second half to stretch its lead to 38-25, and the gap never got down to single figures again. Boylan envied the Saints' balance, which had four players in double figures. Mike Brown had a game-high 16 points, and Brown, Doremus Bennerman (15 points) and Jim Ryder (11) had three three-pointers apiece. Senior forward Lee Matthews was dominant inside, getting 15 points and eight rebounds.
Before Gabriel heated up in the last eight minutes of the first half, the Greyhounds were in danger of losing contact even earlier than normal.
Loyola was down 18-10 when Gabriel took control at the offensive end. He exploited open lanes and drove for two baskets; dropped in two three-pointers; and finished with another three-pointer. Gabriel's burst added up to 13 points during a 15-8 Greyhound run that cut the difference to 26-25 with 2:21 left, but Siena calmly answered with the last seven points of the half to take a 33-25 halftime lead.