Monday, March 5, 2012

Historical Halftime Reference Helps Motivate Loyola

Jimmy Patsos isn't afraid to use history to illustrate what he wants from his Loyola basketball team, and at halftime of Monday's MAAC championship game he thought his Greyhounds needed to be inspired not by the philosophies of John Wooden, Adolph Rupp or Red Auerbach, but from something far from the realm of the sport.

Patsos rolled out a lesson about Bobby Seale and the Black Panther movement.

Talk about a stream-of-consciousness motivational talk ... but it worked.

With Loyola trailing by four at the break, the colorful (to put it mildly) Loyola coach sought to bring some description to the change of strategy he wanted from his team in the second half.

"I talked about Bobby Seale and the Black Panther movement (a revolutionary leftist movement active mostly in the 1960s), and told them that there are levels," Patsos said.

"There's Martin Luther King, and there's Malcolm X. I told them that I saved Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers for the end. I told them that (like the Black Panthers) we were going to get militant and we are going to go right after them and press after every made shot. I wasn't asking for violence, but I told them that we were going to go full force."

Full force for Loyola meant all-out, end-to-end defensive pressure designed to rattle an opponent.

"There's nothing wrong with being a pacifist, or a middle-of-the-road intellectual, but this was our time for anger. We weren't going to back down. We were going to press for the full 94 feet. If it worked, it worked. If not, then not."

It worked to near perfection as Loyola made offensive life difficult for Fairfield after the intermission, holding the Stags to just 6-of-31 shooting (19.4 percent, including misses on their first 13 tries after halftime) and 14 points in the second half.

It was more than enough for the Greyhounds to rally from their four-point halftime deficit to earn a 48-44 victory in Monday night's MAAC men's championship game and the school's first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1994.

And, now, Loyola's players also know about Bobby Seale.

"I wanted the guys to go for it," added Patsos. "We had to press them. They were trying to grind it out, and we're not a grinding team. If we let them grind it out they would have beat us."

Fairfield, though, was nearly up to the challenge with its own effective half-court defense, holding Loyola to 22 second-half points and still in position to tie the game in the closing seconds before forward Rakim Sanders' three-point attempt when his team trailed, 47-44, bounced off the rim.

"That's what the press does to you," added Patsos. "It wears you down."

It was a game only the most-defensive appreciative fans would enjoy, producing the lowest-scoring MAAC tournament men's championship game in the league's 31-year history.

"We're pretty devastated right now," admitted Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson. "It's what we worked for since we went on a trip to Italy as a team this summer. From the first day we started preparing for that trip we talked about playing for and winning a MAAC championship.

"We just put enough shots in. We held Loyola to 48 points. Anytime you hold an opponent to 48 points in a Division I game you figure you're going to win that game, but they one-upped us."

Fairfield, now 19-14, figures to keep playing in one of the sport's minor post-season events.

"We're not through playing this season, and that will take some of the sting away from this ... but, not all. Still, we're happy we can continue to play and show people who we are."

Loyola can show off in the upcoming NCAA tournament, and will learn when and against what opponent during the NCAA selection show on Sunday March 18.

"I don't care where we get seeded," said Patsos. "I think we deserve a 14, but we'll take whatever they give us."

In his most recent "Bracketology" prediction for ESPN Joe Lunardi figures Loyola to get a No. 15 seed in a 16-team bracket.

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