The student section at Loyola's Reitz Arena was mostly empty yesterday, just two days after the Greyhounds hit a low point in their season with a 24-point loss to lightly regarded Iona.
It was a particularly quiet setting for the Greyhounds to come to life so vehemently.
Led by Gerald Brown's game-high 22 points and Brett Harvey's career highs in assists (11) and rebounds (10), Loyola rolled to a 77-54 win over visiting Manhattan - its largest margin of victory since Feb. 7, 1999. The Greyhounds took a 30-5 lead to start the game.
"Our kids learned a valuable lesson today - to never give up on yourself," Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said. "As poor as we played Friday night, that's how hard we played [Sunday]."
After shooting just 33 percent from the field in their previous three games - all losses - the Greyhounds (5-5, 1-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) shot 52 percent against the Jaspers (5-4, 1-1), primarily by establishing their dominance in the paint.
"That's what we focused on in practice," Brown said. "Against Iona, we didn't really go inside. We shot a lot of jumpers. This time, we just wanted to pound the ball inside early. It opened up our outside game ... and set the tone for the rest of the game."
Loyola controlled the game from the opening tip, eschewing open looks from the perimeter in favor of making an extra pass inside, then clamping down on the defensive end.
The result was an intense 6-minute stretch to open the game, in which the Greyhounds held the Jaspers to 0-for-9 from the field and built a 15-0 lead.
They scored 14 of their first 20 points in the paint, taking some of the pressure off Brown and Marquis Sullivan (15 points) on the perimeter.
They also out-rebounded Manhattan, 44-29, led by Harvey and Michael Tuck, who finished with 10 each.
Loyola improved to 4-0 at home. After the game, Patsos wasn't shy in his criticism of the Loyola students, who were noticeably absent - attendance was announced as 1,222.
"It looks like the Loyola students have given up on us," Patsos said. "That's too bad. We've worked really hard around here to make this a good program. We were 1-27 when I got here. ... I'm sorry they're disappointed."