Loyola lacked the intensity and hustle that lifted it to the top half of the conference, and Fairfield made the Greyhounds pay.
The Stags made a season-best 11 three-pointers to run away with a 70-59 victory before 1,772 at Reitz Arena last night. Shane Miller, who scored a career-high 28 points, made five of his six three-pointers in the second half.
Loyola (10-13, 7-5) drops into a three-way tie with Canisius and Manhattan, falling a game behind second-place Fairfield (16-8, 8-4).
The Stags' plan was simple: dump the ball inside and have the post player kick the ball back out to the open shooter. The Greyhounds just didn't react.
"I don't know why we came out so flat," Ellerbe said. "I don't know if it's that we don't handle success well. The good teams do that. This is probably the best situation Loyola has been in the conference at this time, and we played lethargic."
And it was the three-pointer which put the game away.
After Loyola narrowed the lead to 51-47 on Teron Owens' three-pointer, Greg Francis countered down court with a three of his own at 4:54, drawing a fifth personal foul from Anthony Smith. He converted the foul shot for a four-point play, turning a four-point lead to a 55-47 advantage.
Loyola seemingly folded, barely contesting a put-back by Sean Clarke and a three-pointer by Miller.
After that three by Miller with 3:11 left, Mike Powell was called for a technical for the way he bounced the ball at the referee while heading to the bench for a timeout. On the very next possession, Powell was called for an intentional foul.
In a matter of two minutes, the Greyhounds' deficit went from four to 18 points with 2:59 remaining. Powell, the Greyhounds' first-half catalyst, was two of seven from the field in the second half and finished with 17 points.
"I don't think it was a matter of one play tonight," Ellerbe said. "We have had situations where teams have shot very well from the outside, but not like in bunches tonight. Whatever we did, whether it was zone or man-to-man, it didn't matter. It was our effort overall."
It was also a matter of Miller having a career night. He knocked down three three-pointers in a 15-6 run that spanned five minutes which allowed Fairfield to pull ahead for good, 41-36 with 11:08 left in the game.
"I just got to where I was going to shoot the ball when I got it," Miller said. "The team got me the ball and I found an open spot. I've never had a night like this shooting the ball."
Powell single-handedly kept Loyola in the game in the first half, scoring all 12 of his points in the final 8:56. He accounted for 12 of the Greyhounds' last 14 points in the first half, converting six of his final seven shots before halftime.