Friday, March 16, 2012

Loyola Comes Up Short Vs. Ohio State in NCAA's

As promised, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos did indeed take his team to the Andy Warhol museum during its time in Pittsburgh prior to its NCAA Tournament opener against Ohio State.

Most will remember Warhol's belief that everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame, and that's about what the Greyhounds had late Thursday night before falling to bigger, taller, stronger No. 2 seed Ohio State, 78-59.

Actually, it was a little bit less than 15 minutes. Loyola hung tough for a little under the first 12 minutes, trailing 26-20 at that point. Ohio State then went on an 11-2 run to take a 37-22 lead and the Greyhounds never got closer again.

From the prime seat in front of the 42-inch screen, it did appear that Loyola faced a few significant problems.

Freshman point guard R.J. Williams picked up two fouls in the game's first 1:48 and was limited to 22 minutes total in the game. Loyola noticeably missed Williams at both ends of the court during his subsequent absences.

Loyola, defensively, did an outstanding job on Ohio State's standout 6-foot-9, 280-pound post presence Jared Sullinger, holding him to 12 points and 11 rebounds. But it appeared the extra attention on Sullinger left openings for his teammate, 6-7 forward Deshaun Thomas, who put up monster 31-point, 12-rebound numbers.

Ohio State's big, bulky inside tandem was just too much for Loyola. Sullinger had all 12 of his points in the first half to ensure Loyola wouldn't get closer than a double-figure halftime deficit, and Thomas followed with, at one point, 13 consecutive second-half points that enabled the winners to pull away.

Their combined 23 rebounds was just one fewer than the entire Loyola team, certainly highlighting the deficiency faced by most mid-major level teams.

Teams in the MAAC rarely get quality big men, and that disadvantage usually shows up when conference teams play higher-level opponents (see Iona's loss to BYU on Tuesday).

Ion all, the Buckeyes more than doubled Loyola's rebounding total, holding a 49-24 edge on the glass.

"I thought we played really hard, which is what we do at Loyola University," Patsos told the Baltimore Sun afterwards. "We set a school record for wins (24). We're not just growing as a program ... the league is growing.

"To play Ohio State, one of the best teams in the country, you're not going to win that game without having everything go right. We didn't have everything go right. We played hard and competed and the guys had a great experience."

The outcome ends Loyola's season with a 24-9 overall record setting a program record for victories since moving to the Division I level 31 years ago.

And it's not hard to envision another strong Loyola season coming up as the Greyhounds, right now, look to be the early favorite to win the 2012-13 league championship.

The team loses just one significant player, senior center Shane Walker. Between the returnees and this year's experience ...

It looks like the program's 15 minutes of fame will extend into next season.

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