A dejected Jason Rowe stared at the floor outside the Loyola locker room yesterday and said candidly, "This is the worst I've ever played in a Loyola uniform.
"I don't know where I was in the first half. I was either thinking too much or not enough."
The sometimes-spectacular Rowe and his teammates were trying to figure out why they were so flat for a noon matchup with Fairfield University at Reitz Arena.
The visiting Stags came out charged up for warm-ups and never let up during a 75-69 victory that saddled the Greyhounds with their third straight loss.
"It all began in the layup lines before the game," said Rowe.
"They came out clapping and fired up, and we weren't ready to play. We wound up reacting all day on our home court to their intensity. Unfortunately, we've had three of these games already this season."
Fairfield (5-1, 1-0) led by as many as 18 points in the first half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference match and by 15 at halftime before Rowe tried desperately to lead the Greyhounds back in the second half with 20 points and five steals.
Loyola (3-3, 0-2) climbed within 50-47 with 8: 27 left on Ryan Blosser's follow shot, but could never get any closer, thanks to the determined play of junior Fairfield center Darren Phillip and freshman guard Jermaine Clark.
Phillip stuck dagger after dagger in the Greyhounds' hopes all afternoon, scoring 28 points and banging the boards relentlessly for 24 rebounds.
"That is one of the best individual performances I've seen in all my years of coaching," said Loyola coach Dino Gaudio.
The 6-foot-6 Phillip missed only one shot all afternoon, following that miss up for a basket in a 13-of-14 shooting show inside.
"I missed a chippie, but tapped it in," said Phillip. "My teammates boxed out for me all day to make it all possible."
Clark scored 23 points and had five steals for the Stags, who have won five straight since losing their opener by 32 points to Duke.
Loyola has not won since it beat Towson University two weeks ago to win the Battle of Baltimore championship.
"I'm just hoping our team is not content with the Battle of Baltimore," said Loyola center Roderick Platt. "We still have 23 games to play."
Rowe, a flashy 5-10 junior point guard, scored a game-high 31 points with six steals and one assist.
But he won't forget for a long time the eight turnovers he had in the loss to a team that was a preseason pick to finish seventh in the MAAC.
Loyola was chosen fifth in the preseason predictions.
Rowe was so shaky in the first half that he turned the ball over six times, missed a wide-open dunk and failed to hit two free throws in the first nine minutes of the game.
Platt had 20 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.
But he couldn't stop Phillip and had five of his team's 26 turnovers.
Gaudio shuffled Rowe and the rest of the players in and out of the game often, but not too much changed until the second half.
"We were looking for guys who could match the intensity Fairfield played with," said Gaudio. "Unfortunately, I couldn't do it."
Check these numbers for playing hard and winning ugly:
Fairfield turned the ball over 35 times, hit just three of 13 free throws in the final 1: 38 of the game, was 13 of 31 overall from the line and was called for 24 personal fouls.
"We're playing with fire and we've got to stop it," said Fairfield coach Tim O'Toole.
Pub Date: 12/06/98