Early in the second half, the small but vocal Reitz Arena crowd began chanting "A. Smith. A. Smith" in appreciation for Loyola forward Anthony.
He had scored 12 first-half points, four on two sensational slams, as the Greyhounds dominated American University early and went on to an 85-59 win.
But the chant was also intended to unnerve Eagles guard Nathan Smith, the three-point sharpshooter who could have single-handedly spoiled Loyola's home opener.
It was too late for the fans. The Greyhounds' swarming defense had already taken care of American's Smith, a 21.3-point average scorer whose chances for taking good shots in the first half were minimal.
The opposing Smith wound up with a game-high 22 points, but Loyola's superior athleticism had rendered his 15 in the second half virtually meaningless.
"From watching films, a lot of their offensive success revolved around him," said Greyhounds guard Mike Powell. "So we tried to trap the ball, keep it out of his hands and bust up his shots."
"We added a defensive wrinkle especially for this game," said Loyola coach Brian Ellerbe. "They run a couple of sets that are a part of every offense they have. We felt if we disrupted that, we'd be fine. I gotta give the kids credit. They only had one day of practice with it."
Loyola (2-1) flustered American into four turnovers in the first 3 1/2 minutes and zipped to an 8-0 lead. The inexperienced Eagles were never closer than seven points the rest of the game.
"We just tried to come out and attack. Basically, they played our game," said Anthony Smith, who finished with 16 points.
American coach Chris Knoche said his team was very impatient on offense and "I thought we were very fortunate to be down just 11 at halftime. We were just flat, drained coming off an emotional game at home against George Washington.
"Nathan might have been affected more than anybody. It looked like his legs had left him."
American (1-3) shot only 36.2 percent from the field.
Nathan Smith drilled home 15 second-half points, but Loyola's big man, Roderick Platt, controlled both backboards and Darren Kelly scored 11 second- half points (19 overall) to keep the margin very secure.
The victory was the 999th in Loyola basketball history and the team can reach a milestone attained by 119 other schools Saturday against Mount St. Mary's.
"Hopefully, we can pick up number 1,000 against them, our big rival," said Powell. "That would be nice."
Ellerbe said he was "worried most of the game" after his young but talented squad had asserted itself quickly.
"When young guys get up that early, it's hard to sustain concentration. We did an adequate job, but we're still learning how to put a team away."
Pub Date: 12/05/96