Blanchard Hurd and Donovan Thomas each scored 13 of their 17 points in the second half, rallying Loyola's basketball team past St. Francis, Pa., 66-53, yesterday at Reitz Arena.
Thomas, a freshman, put Loyola (3-1) ahead for good -- after three second-half ties -- with a layup that made the score 51-49 with 6: 18 left in the game.
"I felt it was my duty," Thomas said of his second-half performance. "I'm only a freshman, but I have to play like a man among men."
Hurd's free throw with 2: 36 left gave Loyola a 58-53 lead, one that would stretch because of baskets by Damien Jenifer and Jason Rowe.
Thomas and Hurd scored 16 of the team's final 23 points over 8: 30, and along with Brian Carroll -- who had 16 rebounds and three blocks -- made up for the loss of starting forward Cliff Strong to dominate the Red Flash (1-3) inside.
"We were overmatched," said St. Francis coach Bobby Jones, whose team shot 36.2 percent from the field. "They have big, athletic post people. People are going to find a way to take advantage of our weaknesses, and interior defense is a problem for us."
The Red Flash was playing without its top inside player, Tom Fox, the team's leading scorer last season. But Loyola was short-handed, too, having lost Strong to a torn an anterior cruciate ligament in an 82-67 loss to Penn State on Wednesday night.
Greyhounds coach Dino Gaudio pleaded with his team not to let the injury serve as an excuse for underachieving, because it won its first two games without guard Anthony Walker.
"The team on the floor is the team of the moment, and that's what we have to go with," Gaudio said. "Cliff will learn a lot from it [this experience], and we will learn a lot as a team."
The Red Flash used a zone defense yesterday, and early on Loyola responded by taking jump shots instead of working the ball inside.
"We wanted to [get it inside], but for whatever reason we didn't do it," Gaudio said.
Tough Greyhounds defense offset the scoring difficulties, however. Loyola held St. Francis to 39 percent shooting in the first half and had five steals on the way to a 26-20 lead after a layup by Hurd with 4: 55 to go.
But Loyola, in its third extended drought of the half, didn't score again before halftime. Rob Krimmel (11 points) hit two three-pointers and Earl Foreman hit another at the buzzer to complete a 9-0 St. Francis run that gave the Red Flash a 29-26 lead at halftime.
"In the first half, we just didn't come out emotionally," said Rowe, who had 14 points to go along with 13 from Jenifer. "We didn't hang our heads [at halftime] because we hadn't played well and still held them to 29 points."
Led by Fox's replacement, Matt Walter, the Red Flash kept the lead for most of the second half, but its greatest advantage was six points. For the first time in 12: 37, Rowe's three-pointer put the Greyhounds back in front, 43-41, with 9: 22 left.
A basket by Bryan Martin tied the game 19 seconds later at 43. Then Hurd and Thomas took over. Hurd had two layups to put Loyola up by four; then when St. Francis tied the game at 47, Thomas scored six during an 8-2 run that gave the team a 55-49 lead with 4: 56 to go.
The Greyhounds will play host to American tomorrow night.