NEWARK, Del. -- Undermanned Loyola played its first game in more than three weeks last night with two former starters missing and one old/new starter back.
The trade-off didn't work.
With Tracy Bergan (academics) and David Credle (knee surgery) absent, the Greyhounds couldn't sustain any offensive continuity and lost to Delaware, 77-65, in a helter-skelter game before 2,751 at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Coach Skip Prosser started three freshmen and rotated players frequently in an effort to compensate, but Loyola (3-3) never led by more than a point.
The only encouraging sign was the return of forward Michael Reese, who led the Greyhounds with 17 points and also contributed six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
But Reese's effort was "sort of endemic of our team," said Prosser. "He played hard, but didn't always finish the play. We did a lot of that."
Loyola obviously missed Bergan, its point guard and leading scorer who has some schoolwork to complete and is unlikely to play tomorrow night at home against Iona.
A decision on whether he will be eligible to play again will be rendered by the school next week.
Reese said the team "needed some leadership with Tracy gone and I tried. But I don't think I was physically ready to play as much as I was mentally."
The 6-foot-8 transfer from Boston College was a key player for the Greyhounds in 1991-92, but missed all of last season after an off-campus incident and had not played competitively in nearly two years.
"I'd love to be out there in as good a shape as I should be," said Reese. "What I did tonight wasn't enough to win the game. That makes it even worse. It's in vain when you lose."
Delaware (6-4) never put away the decision until the final minute when Loyola was firing quick three-point shots in desperation. The biggest lead until then was 57-49.
But guard Brian Pearl and sophomore center Matt Strine ensured that the Blue Hens never lost control in their fifth straight victory over Loyola.
Co-captain Pearl hit two consecutive three-pointers early in the game to give his team a six-point lead and went on to finish in double figures (20 points) for the 17th straight game. Pearl also had seven assists and only one turnover.
Strine was primarily responsible for Delaware's mastery on the backboards (50-29) with a career-high 16 rebounds to go with his points before fouling out with 2:46 left.
Prosser wouldn't use inactivity as an alibi for the performance of his team, which last played Dec. 11 in an 85-79 victory at Mount St. Mary's.
"For lack of a better word, that would be the easy explanation," the coach said when asked if the Greyhounds were rusty. "So many games come down to who makes the plays and they [Blue Hens] did."
B. J. Pendleton was his usual workmanlike self with 16 points and 11 rebounds for Loyola, which has not beaten Delaware in their sporadic 15-game series since 1945.
The Greyhounds will have to press onward without Credle, who will be out from four to six weeks, and perhaps without Bergan.