By Dan O'Connell
Associate Director of Athletic Media Relations
When Towson and Loyola meet in the Bracketbusters Game on Saturday night, it will be 70th meeting in a series that started in 1934.
Although I wasn't there in 1934, it does seem like I've seen most of the battles between the two local rivals - and I've seen them from two different angles.
Since I've been a member of the Tiger athletic staff since 1979, there are many, many people who think I'm a Towson graduate. However, in the words of the immortal Cliff Clavin, "Here's a little known fact... " I am a 1976 graduate of Loyola.
As a result, I was on the Greyhounds' side for my first ten Towson-Loyola games. They were conference rivals in the old Mason-Dixon Conference for many years.
I was Loyola's team manager for the first four matchups and I was the student SID for the next six games.
In fact, when I started working here at Towson in 1979, it took a year or two before Vince Angotti would trust me enough to even talk to me.
Truthfully, there weren't a whole lot of positive memories from my days on the Loyola side of the rivalry. Recently, I checked the records and was surprised to find out that Loyola actually won four of those games.
My first exposure to a Towson-Loyola game was in December of 1971. (I am very aware that was nearly 40 years ago). The schools were called Towson State and Loyola College and the teams met in the championship game of the Schaefer Metro Classic, a tournament that was played at Burdick Hall.
The Greyhounds and the Tigers met in the championship game and it was a wild one. I can recall Loyola pulled out an 82-81 win in double overtime when Dan Rendine made two free throws with five seconds left. Years later, Coach Angotti told me that Rendine shouldn't have even been in the game. He had fouled out a few minutes earlier and the scorekeeper failed to notify the officials.
In 1973, I remember how Towson came from behind to earn a 77-74 win in overtime at Evergreen, Loyola's bandbox gym. Larry Witherspoon of Towson took that game over and scored the winning basket off a steal. Later that night, I saw "Spoon" visiting in the dorms at Loyola because he was the cousin of Morris Cannon, a quad-mate of mine who played for the Greyhounds.
A year later, Loyola made a trip to Burdick Hall for a late-season game against Towson. That was the first time I ever saw Pat McKinley play and he was dominating. It seemed like he blocked half the shots that Loyola took. Towson won, 86-70, but I don't remember the game being that close.
In 1975, the Greyhounds actually played the Tigers three times. In the early season Metro Tournament, Loyola pulled out a 64-58 win. The most memorable thing about that game was that it was the third place game of the tournament and it was played at UMBC. Both Towson and Loyola showed up wearing dark jerseys. (Loyola was supposed to be wearing white as the higher seeded team). So, the Greyhounds went back to the locker room and emerged wearing UMBC's white uniforms.
When Loyola came out ahead while wearing the UMBC uniforms, many wise guys remarked that it was UMBC's first-ever win over Towson.
After Towson avenged that early-season loss with a 72-58 win in the Baltimore Civic Center, the teams met in the rubber match at Evergreen. It was Loyola's Senior Night and the Greyhounds were playing well.
But, that night was no contest. Coach Angotti's powerhouse was just coming together and Towson rolled to a 98-82 win before a packed house. Loyola was no match for a Towson team that featured Brian Matthews, Bobby Washington, Mike Jeffers and McKinley.
Over the next few years, Towson beat Loyola on a regular basis as the Tigers became one of the top teams in NCAA Division II.
By the time I started working at Towson in 1979, both programs were newcomers competing at the NCAA Division I level.
Despite the move to Division I status, the Towson-Loyola games never lost their intensity and they have continued to provide memorable moments.
When Mark Amatucci became the head coach of the Greyhounds in the 1980's, he raised the stakes. He wanted Loyola to be Baltimore's team and brought that up before every Towson-Loyola matchup.
While Amatucci was building the Loyola program, Terry Truax was rebuilding the Tigers. From 1982 to 1986, the series belonged to Loyola as the Greyhounds beat Towson four years in a row.
The series momentum shifted early in the 1986-87 season. In a game at Reitz Arena, Loyola rolled to a 51-42 halftime lead and it looked like the Greyhounds would earn another win over Towson. However, Bill Leonard led a second half comeback that saw the Tigers explode for 56 points on their way to a 98-82 win. During one two-minute stretch, Leonard made three straight three-pointers as part of a 15-0 run that gave the Tigers a 71-61 advantage.
That come-from-behind win was the start of a stretch where the Tigers won eight out of nine from the Greyhounds. Late in the 1988-89 season, the Tigers handed Loyola a crushing 104-69 defeat, a game that was best-known for a wager between Gerry Sandusky (a Towson graduate) and Vince Bagli (a Loyola graduate). Gerry had just returned to Baltimore as a sports anchor at WBAL-TV where he was teamed with Vince.
Prior to the game, they made an on-air wager that Gerry would have to wear a Loyola jersey on television if Loyola won. If Towson won, Vince would be expected to wear a Towson jersey.
At halftime, the game was so one-sided Vince went down to the equipment room at halftime to try and arrange to borrow a Towson jersey.
But, the Tigers' 35-point win was the exception rather than the rule in this series.
In the finals of the 1990 Baltimore Beltway Classic, the NCAA Tournament-bound Tigers edged Loyola, 62-60. Later that season, the Greyhounds edged Towson, 85-84, on a jumper by Tracy Bergan with 12 seconds left.
The 1992 meeting may have provided the most bizarre finish to any Towson-Loyola game. With the game tied at 64-64 late, the Tigers had the ball with the shot clock and the game clock winding down.
In the final seconds, Craig Valentine took a short jumper in the lane. As the ball hit the rim, the shot clock buzzer went off. Thinking the game was over, the Loyola players stopped. John James tipped in the missed shot at the buzzer for a wild 66-64 victory.
In the 1993-94 season, the Greyhounds pulled out a 90-84 win in overtime. It was an early indication of the magical year they were about to have as Coach Skip Prosser guided the Greyhounds to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
When the Tigers handed Loyola an 89-84 loss in 1997, they had 11 wins in their last 13 games over the Greyhounds.
Loyola won the next three meetings until Towson pulled out a 74-64 victory in the 2000-01 season. Over the last ten years, the teams have met five times and the Tigers have won four.
When the Greyhounds and the Tigers meet on Saturday night, look for some more memorable performances.