With their usual solid defense and 22 points from their bench, the Greyhounds set a school record with a 21st victory yesterday, ousting Iona, 59-51, in the quarterfinal round at Marine Midland Arena.
Third-seeded Loyola's ninth straight triumph over the Gaels and 15th in their last 16 meetings set up a semifinal match this morning against second-seeded St. Peter's, which defeated Niagara, 59-52. St. Peter's is the only team to beat the Greyhounds twice this season.
"Defensively our kids were right on the ball," said coach Cindy Anderson. "Iona has been playing well of late and they're a very good half-court team, so we tried to uptempo it."
Loyola (21-6) stashed away its seventh straight first-round win with a 10-0 stretch to start the second half, employing its defense to force six Gaels turnovers and 0-5 shooting by the opposition. By the time Karen Culbertson scored Iona's first points of the half at 13: 28, the Greyhounds were flying along with a 37-22 advantage.
Reserve center Sherika Wilson made a big bucket following Culbertson's breakthrough, and reserve guard Shannon Cohen (12 points) pitched some crucial points from the free-throw line after the Gaels rallied.
Iona (11-16) had difficulty matching up with Jennifer Bongard outside. That opened the lane for All-MAAC first-teamer Mary Anne Kirsch, who led the Greyhounds with 14 points and five rebounds.
Culbertson and Sandy Bisogno each scored 13 for Iona, which was held to 36 percent shooting by a Greyhound defense that ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense.
"We've had some rough years, but I always felt positive that we'd get to this point [21 wins]," said Kirsch. "Twenty wins was one of our goals, and now we've passed it."
But it won't be easy getting to 22 against the tall and talented Peahens. "The first game they stole from us or we gave it away," said Anderson, whose team was beaten 66-57 and 66-59 during the regular season. "They're a power team, and we'll have to contain them on the boards."