The most telling moment of the game occurred with about four minutes left in the first half. Duke midfielder Myles Jones took a pass at the top of the restraining box, and twice lowered his shoulder to bounce around Loyola Maryland short-stick midfielder Jared Mintzlaff.
Seconds after the second contact, Jones torched a low, left-handed shot into the goal as if it was shooting practice. And actually, it was. Jones finished with a career-high-tying five goals and three assists as No. 9 Duke routed No. 8 Loyola, 15-6, Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Blue Devils led 8-3 at the half and by eight goals at the end of three quarters to take away any suspense from a crowd of 3,014 which also included a visit from about 100 members of the Newtown, Conn., community for the fourth straight year.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jones, a senior from Huntington, N.Y., was simply unstoppable, and proved why he is the most dominating force in college lacrosse.
"There are some things you see him do on film, but it's much different when you are on the field against him," Mintzlaff said. "We had a game plan for him, to keep him out of the middle of the field. But he is just a great player, so athletic. We knew we had to slide to him and we didn't. That's the most disappointing thing, and he canned those shots."
Jones scored with his left and right hands. He connected on three low shots that were blazers, and then he torched another high one in the right corner. When the Greyhounds tried to double Jones, he made nifty passes like the one to sophomore attackman Justin Guterding to the right of the goal with 10:09 left in the third period.
Loyola seemed so mesmerized by Jones that it left junior attackman Jack Bruckner open at the top of the crease for an extra-man goal on a feed from Jones to open the fourth quarter. Guterding and Bruckner each finished with three goals.
The successful offensive production came at the right time for Duke, which had lost its previous two games to Harvard on March 5 and Richmond two days later.
"Our backs were against the wall," Jones said. "We had two straight losses, and you never want to see that as a senior. There was a sense of urgency. I took advantage of space; a lot of my shots came from the slot. I had talked it over with [senior midfielder] Deemer Class and we wanted to make an impact from the start."
Duke outshot Loyola, 43-36, but the Blue Devils had so many more scoring opportunities because junior midfielder Kyle Rowe won 19 of 23 faceoffs. Loyola used two goalies in Grant Limone and Sam Beazell, but neither had an answer for Duke.
Eight of the Blue Devils' goals were assisted and their interior passing around the crease was superb. But just as important, the Greyhounds offense never got in sync.
"This was a legitimate response for this game," Duke coach John Danowski said. "It's not losing that makes you analytical — it's how you lose or how you win. Richmond outplayed us, Harvard outplayed us. Harvard wanted to beat Duke more than Duke wanted to beat Harvard. Richmond beat Duke because Richmond wanted to beat Duke more than Duke wanted to beat Richmond.
"Today, we didn't constantly turn the ball over. We didn't have a lot of empty possessions. When you have possession of the ball and you get it back, it gives you confidence."
Duke led, 3-1, at the end of the first quarter as Jones and Bruckner scored in the final 4:35 of the first period. Loyola actually got within two goals, 5-3, on a Mintzlaff goal with 4:55 left in the second quarter, but Jones, Bruckner and Guterding each scored in the remaining time to finish off the half, and basically Loyola.
"We knew as much as we talked about it in the locker room, we knew we had a wounded animal coming to Ridley," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "They exposed a lot of our weaknesses and we've got to fix some things. We need to know, 'Where do we go from here, and how do we get there?'
"When it's make it take it, it's tough out there," Toomey said of losing the face-off battles. "They broke us down."
No one did more than Jones, who might have had his best game of the year despite entering the day with 10 goals and 13 assists. But this was a game he decided to take over.
"It's a hard thing for Myles trying to live up to Mr. Lacrosse," Danowski said. "Everyone is telling him he is the man, but he is still just a college student."
But he was Mr. Lacrosse on Saturday. Toomey acknowledged Jones is a great player, but he wasn't going to accept him lighting up the Greyhounds for eight points.
"I can't stomach that," Toomey said. "We talk about the knowns, and opponents are going to have great players. Each team has one, but you just can't throw the film away and say he is a great player. You have to defend him and make the other players beat you. We didn't do that."