The Loyola Greyhounds have left last year's 2-25 season in the dust. Just ask Towson State.
The Tigers found out the hard way last night as Loyola equaled its victory total of last season in just its season game, capturing a 90-84 overtime thriller over Towson State before 1,786 at Reitz Arena.
Senior point guard Tracy Bergan scored a game-high 28 points, but it was his cold stare and deadly free-throw shooting that Towson State won't soon forget. Bergan went a perfect 10-for-10 at the foul line, including 6-for-6 in the last five minutes, as Loyola tied the game in regulation on a three-point shot by Darius Johnson, then pulled away in overtime.
"There is a certain aura about this team," Bergan said. "Going into the season, a lot of guys didn't know what to think. Now, we're getting a taste of winning. We're a young team, we're 2-0, and we're only going to get better."
It's the Greyhounds' first 2-0 start in seven seasons. Meanwhile, the Tigers (1-3) are still looking for the first victory since upsetting St. John's in their season opener two weeks ago.
"We don't even talk about last year. I don't let them talk about it," said Skip Prosser, Loyola's first-year coach. "We could have folded at times tonight. It takes some stomach to make those plays, and our kids showed it tonight."
Especially Bergan, who has returned with a vengeance after a year's absence due to academic reasons.
First, he hit two three-pointers to highlight his 12-point spurt early in the first half.
Then, he held the Greyhounds to gether during a second half in which the teams traded leads several times.
And in overtime, Bergan capped off his game-high 28-point night by hitting six straight free throws to give the Greyhounds an 85-82 lead they never relinquished.
Bergan added six assists and four steals. B. J. Pendleton scored 21 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds. Johnson scored 15 points, including a 4-for-5 performance from three-point range.
It was Johnson's shot that gave the Greyhounds the chance to win. Towson State, asserting its strength up front -- where the Tigers out-rebounded Loyola 45-36 -- had gradually taken control down the stretch in regulation.
And when Ralph Blalock (team-high 25 points) hit a 19-footer with 42 seconds left to give the Tigers a 76-73 lead, the Greyhounds were in trouble.
But 12 seconds later, Johnson launched a shot from the corner that tied the game at 76 and sent the Loyola fans into a frenzy.
Towson had a shot to win the game in regulation, but Blalock's shot from 18 feet clanged off the rim at the buzzer. It was only his second miss in 13 attempts.
That left it to Bergan in overtime.
He had been hot from the opening tip of the game.
He scored 12 of the Greyhounds' first 14 points, as Loyola took a 14-4 lead seven minutes into the game.
Bergan started Loyola's 12-0 run by hitting a three-point shot from the top of the key. He followed that by stealing the ball at midcourt -- one of six Towson State turnovers in the first four minutes -- and finished that play with a layup. He slipped behind the Tigers defense for another layup, then capped the run with a 22-footer from the wing.
The Tigers responded with a 9-0 run to pull to within 14-13, as Blalock scored six points during that stretch.
Johnson's three-pointer stretched the Greyhounds' lead to 19-13, but the Tigers finally caught Loyola on a layup by Scooter Alexander (23 points) to tie the game at 20 with 8:50 left.
From there, the Tigers went on an 11-4 run, capped by Alexander's 18-footer that gave them a 31-24 lead. Alexander then buried an 18-footer from the baseline to make it 35-28 with four minutes left in the half.
The Tigers led 40-36 at intermission.
TOWSON STATE -- Campbell 2-7 7-9 12, Thomas 2-6 1-2 5, James 4-6 2-4 10, Robinson 0-1 0-0 0, Moody 2-7 0-0 5, Keys 1-2 0-0 2, Manning 1-2 0-0 1, Mason 0-2 0-0 0, Alexander 10-23 3-6 23, Blalock 11-13 2-3 25, Crump 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 33-71 15-22 84.
LOYOLA -- Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Pendleton 6-12 9-14 21, Credle 3-11 2-4 8, Bergan 8-18 10-10 28, Johnson 5-9 1-2 15, Owens 1-1 0-0 2, Gabriel 0-0 0-0 0, Sparzak 0-1 0-0 0, Tate 3-5 8-12 14, Wallace 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-59 30-42 90.
Halftime--Towson 40-36. Regulation--76-76. 3-point goals--Towson St., 3-9 (Campbell 1-2, Moody 1-2, Blalock 1-3, Alexander 0-2), Loyola 6-15 (Johnson 4-5, Bergan 2-9, Pendleton 0-1). Rebounds--Towson State, 45 (James 10), Loyola 36 (Pendleton 12). Assists -- Towson St., 12 (Campbell, Alexander, Blalock 3), Loyola 18 (Bergan 6). Total fouls--Towson St., 30, Loyola 19. Fouled out--Thomas, James. Technicals--none. A--1,768.