Fifth-seeded Canisius was there for the taking at Knickerbocker Arena in the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. The Golden Griffins' star, senior forward and Player of the Year Darrell Barley, sat at the end of the team bench, his broken right thumb in a splint, a dejected look on his face. Two weeks earlier, Loyola had beaten Canisius while Barley sat out with an injured knee.
Barley never entered yesterday's game either, nor did he need to, as the Golden Griffins eliminated the fourth-seeded Greyhounds in wire-to-wire fashion.
"All year, we've looked at tapes and we never saw anybody who dominated us," said Owens, the Greyhounds' lone senior. "We kept putting ourselves in positions where we had to fight hard to come back. Not to take credit away from Canisius, but it [the loss] had to do more with us. Our guards didn't execute the offense."
Lackluster guard play had plenty to do with yesterday's season-ending defeat. Owens (nine points) missed eight of 10 shots, including several wide-open attempts in the first half, when the Greyhounds (12-15) fell behind quickly by 10 points and never could make up the deficit.
Sophomore Mike Powell, who carried Loyola's offense all season, ran out of gas during a quiet, 16-point, seven-rebound effort. Powell made only five of 17 shots, including just two of 10 from three-point range. He did not score for the first 17 minutes of the second half.
The problems went deeper. Loyola's bench, suspect all season, barely showed up. The Golden Griffins' reserves outscored Loyola's, 17-4, highlighted by freshman Keith Lambkin's 11 points in 17 minutes. The Greyhounds backups -- Milt Williams, Duane Johnson and Julian Tate -- produced four points in a combined 42 minutes.
Loyola also fell victim to the roster depletions that reduced them to an eight-man team. Point guard John McDonald decided over two months ago to transfer to Iona, forcing Loyola coach Brian Ellerbe to move Powell from shooting guard to the point. Freshman forwards Blanchard Hurd and Roderick Platt were then lost to season-ending knee injuries and freshman forward Nsilo Abraham has played lately with a broken nose.
Yesterday, except for a career-high 12 points from freshman center Lamar Butler and a fine, all-around effort from junior forward Anthony Smith (16 points, seven rebounds, five steals, four assists), Loyola lacked fire.
The Greyhounds' zone defense failed to contain Canisius (17-10), which shot 48.8 percent, converted eight three-pointers in 17 attempts, and placed five players in double figures. Guard Mickey Frazier led the way with 15 points. Point guard Javone Moore had 10 points and a game-high 11 assists.
"We came out calm and cool and relaxed, and that's how we played on offense. We were very lethargic," said Ellerbe, who is still searching for his first postseason victory after two years at Loyola. "When you don't play well at the offensive end, defensively you put a lot of pressure on yourselves to keep making great plays. They [Canisius] are as banged up as we are, but they had a couple of seniors who played like seniors."
Loyola hustled enough to force 18 turnovers and keep the game respectable. The Greyhounds even pulled to within 70-65 in the closing seconds.
At Albany, N.Y.
First round: Yesterday
Canisius 74, Loyola 67
Iona 71, Siena 59
Fairfield 69, St. Peter's 64
Niagara 62, Manhattan 60
Iona vs. Canisius, 6 p.m.
Fairfield vs. Niagara, 8:30 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m.