BRIDGEPORT, CONN. — BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - As Loyola College knows all too well, victories aren't awarded for halftime leads. Five times before this season, the Greyhounds men's basketball team had been ahead after 20 minutes, only to lose.
But those five lost second-half leads likely weren't as painful as yesterday's.
After trailing by six at the half, Fairfield ran off 22 consecutive points almost as if Loyola hadn't even left the locker room. That led to a 75-56 victory for Fairfield and Loyola's 31st consecutive loss.
"That hurt a lot," said Loyola guard Charlie Bell, the game's high scorer with 25 points. "Going in at halftime, and coming out at halftime, we were really pumped up. They had time to regroup."
Thus the Greyhounds, whose 0-18 start this season exceeded Loyola's previous worst season start at 0-17 in 1982-83, inched closer to the all-time NCAA Division I men's losing streak record of 33 by Grambling in 1999-2000. The Greyhounds - who last won on Jan. 19, 2003, against Rider - fell to 0-9 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Said coach Scott Hicks, "Fairfield played a perfect second half. Any time you shoot 62 percent, you're going to be tough to beat. They shot 67 percent for threes, which is like 100 percent for twos. They made all their foul shots [17-for-17, all after halftime.]"
In contrast, the Greyhounds were just 3-for-14 (21 percent) from the foul line, including a miserable 1-for-9 in the second half.
Bell had helped Loyola close to within nine points (58-49) with a three-point play and two three-point field goals, and went to the line to try to complete another three-point play. He missed the foul shot, and within a minute Fairfield's lead was back up to 15 points.
"The foul line cost us a lot," said Bell, who was 2-for-5 from the line. "That's an area where we're pretty solid. Being tired can make a difference down the stretch."
In what is becoming a story line almost as old as the losing streak, the Greyhounds played short-handed. Even with the return of Michael Tuck and Linton Hinds - who "hasn't practiced in about a month," according to Hicks - Loyola had just eight players. Neither Tuck nor Hinds scored.
Point guard Shane James played virtually the whole game despite missing practice all week because of the flu. He scored four points, dished out five assists and pulled down five rebounds, but he clearly wasn't himself.
Jamaal Dixon, who re-sprained his left thumb Friday at Manhattan, didn't play because he didn't think he could catch or dribble the ball.
Behind Bell's 12 points, the Greyhounds didn't trail by more than one point at any time in the first half, as they built a 32-26 halftime advantage. They hit 50 percent of their field-goal attempts.
At the other end, they kept the ball from going inside, and limited Fairfield (10-8, 3-4 MAAC) to 31 percent field goal shooting (11-for-36). Center Rob Thomson, who had just two first-half points, scored 12 after halftime. That gave the Stags a third threat to go with Michael Bell and Terrence Todd, who finished with 20 points apiece.
The biggest turning point during Fairfield's 22-0 run came when the Greyhounds were called for a flagrant foul with the Stags ahead 35-32. Michael Bell made two foul shots, the Stags were awarded the ball and they put in a two-point field goal for a 39-32 edge.
"That was a huge momentum swing," Hicks said. "There's no way that's a flagrant foul. We went up and got a piece of the ball. On a flagrant foul you're going for the player's body and not the ball. That's a judgment call, and I don't agree with it."
Loyola next will face Marist (5-11, 3-4) at home Thursday. The Red Foxes rallied from a 32-23 halftime deficit for a 64-48 decision over the Greyhounds on Jan. 9. "We had a great first half against them," Charlie Bell said. "We'll just have to go back and watch film, and see what we can do."
Another loss would mean the record could be tied at St. Peter's on Saturday afternoon, and broken at home against Manhattan on Feb. 4. Manhattan and St. Peter's are 1-2 in the MAAC standings.
Rising in futility
Loyola's 31-game losing streak is the third longest in NCAA history for Division I men's basketball:
No. Team .................... Dates
33 Grambling ........ 12/6/99-12/16/00
32 Cal St.-Sac. ...... 12/6/93-12/28/94
31 Loyola ................ 1/23/03-present
30 The Citadel ........1/16/54-12/12/55
30 Prairie View ...... 2/25/91-12/5/92
29 UMass ................ 1/26/79-2/1/80