Siena turns back Loyola, 77-72

For more than 35 minutes, Siena and Loyola sparred the way two contenders for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference crown should. There were eight ties and 14 lead changes, and Siena held a 70-68 edge at Reitz Arena as time wound down.

But Siena All-Conference senior guard Doremus Bennerman, who had been limited to nine points, awoke at the right time to score his team's final seven points, leading the Saints (11-3, 2-1) to a 77-72 victory and breaking a four-game winning streak by Loyola (7-4, 1-1).


"Our kids did a good job," said Greyhounds coach Skip Prosser. "But when the game was on the line at the end, Siena made the big plays. You have to give them credit."

Bennerman, who entered averaging 25.2 points, was just 2-for-11 before hitting a three-pointer to put the Saints ahead 73-68 with less than four minutes to play. He completed the Siena scoring with four clutch free throws in the final 36 seconds.


"The game was out there to be had," Prosser said. "And Siena took it away from us."

Loyola got big offensive games from seniors Michael Reese and B. J. Pendleton, who scored 31 and 21, respectively. But senior guard Tracy Bergan, who became Loyola's all-time assists leader with five, never really got into the Greyhounds' offense after picking up two fouls guarding Bennerman in the game's first 47 seconds.

"Everybody seems to be coming out trying to show Doremus they're going to test him," said Siena coach Mike Deane. "But those two quick fouls on Bergan threw him off his game, and that was a big advantage to us. That changes how aggressively he can play."

Bergan's defense didn't suffer drastically, but his offense never appeared as he failed to score in 24 minutes, shooting 0-for-8 against the strong defense of Stuart Downing.

"We just didn't play hard enough down the stretch," said Reese, who hit 13 of 20 shots. "This game was a wake-up call. We've got a lot of work to do. Sometimes when you win four games in a row you think things are going to come easy."

The game was tied four times in the first six minutes, but then the Saints moved out to the biggest lead of the opening half, 22-17, after a three-point play by Andy Theis, who scored a career-high 15.

Loyola answered with a 9-0 run, as Reese scored six in the spurt that put the Greyhounds ahead 26-22 with a little less than seven minutes left in the first half.

After a three-point basket by Milton Williams put Loyola ahead 32-30 with 4:45 left, both teams started a parade to the foul line, and only one other field goal was scored in the half. That, however, was a three-pointer by Loyola's Matt Gabriel to give the Greyhounds a 40-38 lead as time ran out in the half.


After halftime, Loyola built a 59-52 lead with 12 minutes to play, but Siena ran off the next 11 points to regain the lead for good with nine minutes remaining.

Loyola pulled within 69-68 on Reese's two free throws with 4:51 to play, but Bennerman stepped forward after that.

Loyola begins a four-game MAAC road trip at St. Peter's tomorrow.