After trailing by 16 points midway through the second half against one of the best teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Loyola, behind a pesky defense and the continuing resurgence of senior forward B. J. Pendleton, rallied to cut Canisius' lead to one before fading in the final minute.
Senior forward Craig Wise rescued the faltering Golden Griffins. Wise scored eight of his game-high 23 points during the last two minutes, including six on perfect free-throw shooting in the final 65 seconds, as Canisius broke a three-game losing streak by defeating Loyola, 63-55, before 1,575.
Canisius (13-10, 6-3) maintained its hold on third place in the MAAC. But the Golden Griffins had to sweat out an admirable comeback by the Greyhounds (6-15, 2-7), who are stuck in seventh place in the MAAC but didn't play that way in the first nationally televised game at Reitz Arena.
The Greyhounds were fresh off a similar loss to first-place Manhattan, which nearly blew a 20-point, second-half lead before stopping Loyola.
"Teams are going to have to respect us at tournament time. We're not out of it, by far," said Greyhounds senior center David Credle, looking ahead to next month's MAAC tournament in Albany, N.Y. "But we're not accepting any moral victories. We want wins."
Along with Pendleton, Credle, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, nearly dragged the Greyhounds to an unlikely victory.
After both teams struggled with shooting in the first half, Canisius opened the second half with a 13-2 burst to take a 40-24 lead with 15:34 left. With Pendleton and Credle basically trading baskets with the Golden Griffins after that sequence, Canisius held a 52-36 lead at the 9:36 mark.
But, just as quickly as the Greyhounds appeared out of it, they stormed back. Loyola scored 12 unanswered points over the next three minutes, a run that ended with Credle's two free throws to cut the lead to 52-48 with 6:42 to go.
While Canisius stumbled, scoring four points in 8:17, Loyola pressed on. A baseline hook shot by Pendleton -- who scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds -- pulled Loyola to 54-53 with 2:05 left. Wise then broke a five-minute scoreless drought for the Golden Griffins with a turnaround jumper to give Canisius a 56-53 lead with 1:31 left.
Loyola forward Teron Owens (Catonsville), who grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds to go with 11 points, made two free throws to cut the lead back to one at 56-55 with 1:19 to go.
Canisius regrouped offensively, scoring the last seven points to put away Loyola.
"We played the best defense we've played all year. We just couldn't convert offensively and make the plays at the end," said Loyola coach Brian Ellerbe, who watched the Greyhounds miss their last four shots in the final minute.
"We showed some character by fighting back after putting ourselves in such a hole," the coach added. "We're not overwhelmed by anyone in this league. I think we showed that."
Pendleton also showed that he has overcome a January slump that caused him to lose his starting job briefly. He converted 11 of 13 free-throw attempts, grabbed six second-half rebounds and teamed with Credle to shut down the Golden Griffins' top inside threats. Forward Darrell Barley and center Michael Meeks combined for only 18 points, eight after halftime.
"I'm not quite there yet. I had a little fall-off in January, and I'm hoping to peak at tournament time," Pendleton said. "We've just got to keep our heads up, keep on playing hard and good things will happen soon."