No thanks to continuity, Loyola is off to its best start in seven years.
The Greyhounds overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half and ran past Maine for an 83-71 victory at Reitz Arena last night.
Loyola (5-3) is two games over .500 for the first time since the 1986-87 season, and the two wins it notched last week were done with a different cast than the one that earned three victories in December.
"Our lineup has been such a potpourri," first-year coach Skip Prosser said. "With Mike [Reese] joining us late, David [Credle] getting injured and Tracy's [Bergan] situation, every day is a patchwork quilt.
"The one constant has been the effort of the kids. We haven't always won, but we've always played hard."
Reese, the 6-foot-8 senior forward who missed all of last season on a disciplinary suspension and didn't rejoin the Greyhounds until last week, had his third straight solid game, picking up game-high totals of 31 points and eight rebounds. In three games last week, Reese averaged 25.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Junior forward B. J. Pendleton had 16 points, but for the third straight game the Greyhounds' inside game was without Credle.
The backcourt also has been jumbled since point guard Bergan was suspended for academic reasons before the start of the second semester. When his freshman replacements struggled last night, Prosser didn't hesitate in going to two other players who were buried deep down his bench in December.
Teron Owens, a sophomore from Catonsville who played five minutes in the Greyhounds' first three games, had nine points while playing 14 minutes in the second half. Junior Matt Gabriel played 13 minutes in the second half, and although he didn't score, he picked up five assists and three steals.
"There's a lesson to be learned," Prosser said. "If you keep working hard in practice, you're going to get your chance."
Prosser's kind of effort kept the Greyhounds going in the second half, as they found themselves down 61-51 with 14:18 left. Reese scored eight points during a 12-0 run that got Loyola a 63-61 lead with 9:09 left, but Maine was ahead 67-65 inside seven minutes.
Loyola outscored Maine 16-2 during the next five minutes, however, and the Black Bears' points came at the free-throw line. Over the final 13:17, the Greyhounds outscored Maine 32-10.
It was the second straight win on a five-game homestand that will see Loyola come to Reitz Arena tomorrow and UMBC Wednesday. The homestretch concludes next Saturday with Siena, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's hottest team.
Maine (5-5), which is picked to finish sixth in the North Atlantic Conference, built a 12-point lead in the first half despite being in foul trouble all game long. The Black Bears were called for 10 fouls in the first 13 minutes and 28 for the game, compared to 16 for Loyola.
"I don't want to take anything away from Loyola, but I thought it was unfair," Maine coach Rudy Keeling said. "They [Loyola] play hard, just like we do. If the game is going to be called tight, I don't see where we're any more aggressive than they were."
Freshman guard Darius Johnson followed Reese with 17 points and five rebounds, and classmate Milton Williams had 10 assists.
Reserve forward Terry Hunt, who played for Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's High in Jersey City, led the Black Bears with 15 points. Senior forward Francois Bouchard and sophomore guard Casey Arena, normally their leading scorers, were each limited to a field goal.