Loyola-Maryland (20-9) at Iona (15-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 1, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hynes Athletic Center (2,611) -- New Rochelle, New York. Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: Loyola 10-3, Iona 9-1. Away Record: Loyola 7-6, Iona 5-9. Neutral Record: Loyola 3-0, Iona 1-3. Conference Record: Loyola 11-5, Iona 9-7. Series Record: Iona leads, 42-13.
GAME NOTES: A game out of first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with two games remaining, the Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds attempt to finish the regular season strong this weekend, starting with a Friday night matchup versus the Iona Gaels.
Loyola is 11-5 in the MAAC, a game behind Niagara for first place, and it has made its march up the standings in recent weeks with wins in five of its last six games, including three in a row. The Greyhounds claimed a BracketBuster matchup versus Tennessee State last Saturday, 69-67, to improve to 20-9 overall, marking the first time in the school's Division I history that it has won 20 or more games in back-to-back seasons.
Iona was once considered the MAAC favorites, but it has slipped to 15-13 overall and 9-7 in league action by losing six of its last seven games. The Gaels also participated in BracketBuster weekend, falling on the wrong end of a tough 65-64 decision at Indiana State.
Iona defeated Loyola in Baltimore on Jan. 27, 79-71, to extend its lead in the all-time series to a comfortable margin of 42-13.
After falling behind by 11 points at the half last Saturday, Loyola made its run after intermission by allowing Tennessee State to shoot a lowly 27.3 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, and Dylon Cormier broke a 67-67 tie with the pair of game-winning free throws with 11 seconds remaining. The Greyhounds shot an impressive 48.2 percent from the field in the triumph and were paced by the effort of Erik Etherly, who shot 10-of-14 from the field for 26 points to go along with eight rebounds. Cormier was also stellar, finishing with 20 points and three steals. Loyola has been strong at both ends of the court this season, as it is the only team in the MAAC to rank in the top four in both scoring offense (66.9 ppg) and scoring defense (62.9 ppg). Cormier (17.1 ppg) and Etherly (15.4 ppg) are both top-10 scorers, with Etherly adding 6.2 rpg, and more than a block and a steal per game as well. Robert Olson is active from 3-point range (57-of-179), as he nets 12.7 ppg.
In a game that consisted of 11 ties and nine lead changes, Iona took a one- point lead over Indiana State last weekend with nine seconds remaining on a pair of free throws from Sean Armand only to lose the game on the Sycamores' next possession, as they converted the game-winning layup with four seconds left. Iona put forth a sub par shooting effort by anyone's standards, as the team made good on less than 38 percent of its field goal attempts, including just 2-of-16 from 3-point range. Lamont Jones tallied 26 points and five steals in the setback, Taaj Ridley logged 16 points and eight rebounds, while David Laury and Tre Bowman each hauled in 11 boards. It was a rare down effort from Iona, which ranks third in the nation in scoring with 80.9 ppg. The squad's downfall in recent weeks has come thanks to a scoring defense that ranks last in the MAAC (76.4 ppg). Jones ranks second behind Virginia Tech's Erick Green as the nation's top scorer with 23.0 ppg, doing so as one of the most active and accurate foul shooters in Division I (184-of-210, .876). Armand (17.4 ppg) has been on point from 3-point range (97-of-230), while Laury is a good bet for a double-double most nights as he averages 13.0 ppg and 10.4 rpg.
Loyola has its eyes on the regular season MAAC title, and it will likely have to win both of its remaining games to even have a chance at supplanting Niagara. But while Iona has played poorly of late, it is a strong team at home (9-1), and it will likely feed off the energy in the building to outlast the Greyhounds.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iona 76, Loyola-Maryland 74
03/01 10:37:16 ET