Loyola is about to embark on a five-game road trip, and it won't be packing happy memories.
The Greyhounds had a 19-point advantage in the first half last night and went into the final 10 minutes with a nine-point lead on the hottest team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. But gritty Canisius kept coming back and then held on for a 78-76 victory before 1,580 at Reitz Arena.
It was a bitter defeat for Loyola (11-8, 4-5), which couldn't deny younger Canisius (14-5, 5-2) its eighth straight victory.
Despite being outplayed in the second half, the Greyhounds had the lead in the final minute and two chances to tie after Chris Young's game-winning basket, a three-pointer from the left corner with 48 seconds left.
"Our main problem all along has been consistency," said Loyola coach Skip Prosser, who watched his team follow one of its best halves with one of its worst. "Knowing how to win, learning how to win, it's something we have to deal with."
Loyola turned it over after Young's third three-pointer of the last six minutes ended the scoring, but a missed free throw by the Griffins gave the Greyhounds a chance to force an overtime or win on a three-pointer.
Junior center B. J. Pendleton was fouled in the lane with four seconds left, but he deliberately missed the second free throw after his first rolled off the rim. Tracy Bergan controlled the ball on the left baseline, but could do nothing with it.
"We're living with the angels," said Canisius second-year coach John Beilien, who two nights earlier saw his team overcome an 11-0 deficit to win at defending MAAC champion Manhattan. "Actually, we make our own luck by playing very hard."
The undersized Griffins got game-high totals of 25 points and 10 rebounds from 6-foot-4 junior Craig Wise, and guards Young and Binky Johnson finished with 12 apiece after combining for only a single field goal in the first half.
That threesome made 68.1 percent (15 of 22) of their field-goal attempts in the second half, when their quickness and Loyola's foul trouble forced Prosser to stick with a three-guard lineup.
Wise sparked a 9-1 run in the first two minutes of the second half that cut into Loyola's 47-30 halftime bulge, but the Greyhounds still led 62-53 with 10 minutes left. Canisius went on a 12-2 spurt and took its first lead at 65-64 on Johnson's jumper from the right wing with 7:25 left.
The lead changed hands three times before Young's game-winner. The Greyhounds tied it at 75 on Pendleton's three-pointer from the right side with 1:18 left, and got their final lead with 58 seconds to play on a free throw by Matt Gabriel.
Pendleton and Michael Reese led Loyola with 17 points apiece, but the Greyhounds' top inside players combined for only five rebounds in the second half. Bergan had 12 points, but his turnovers (six) outnumbered his assists (five).
Sophomore guard Matt Walker matched his season scoring total of 11 points in the first half, when everything meshed for the Greyhounds, who hit their shots (65.4 percent) and denied Canisius access to the basket. The spread got as large as 19 points, 31-12, on Reese's basket 8:15 before intermission.