Previewing @Towson_MBB vs. Loyola (Md)
Courtesy: Mat Schlissel, TowsonTigers.com  
Release: 11/25/2012
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Loyola University's head coach Jimmy Patsos can relate to what Pat Skerry is going through as head coach at Towson. Both are natives of Boston and in their forties, but that's not the only similarities.  

In the 2003-04 season, Loyola went 1-27 under former coach Scott Hicks. Patsos took over the following season and went 6-22. Seven years later, the Greyhounds were in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994, going 24-9 and 13-5 in the MAAC in the 2011-12 season.  

Skerry hopes to follow that same path (though not take quite as long to get to the NCAA Tournament) when his 3-2 Tigers meet the 5-1 Loyola University Greyhounds on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Reitz Arena.  

This series goes back to the 1934-35 season with Loyola leading, 43-27. Unfortunately the two schools, who are less than five miles apart, have been playing less frequently as of late. The two last met in the ESPN Sears Bracketbuster on February 19, 2011, with Loyola coming out victorious, 75-57, at the Towson Center.  

So this is the Bracketbuster return game and while the Tigers would like to get their revenge from two years ago, there's not one player on that 2010-11 team who was on this current squad. There are also no players on the Towson team with local Baltimore ties save for walk-on junior guard Christian Collins. The rivalry is new to everyone involved, including the coaches.  

I have covered this series since the 1989-90 season. During those 18 games, the victor has won by 10 points or less in 15 of them.  

This year's Loyola team is loaded with talent and experience.The 'Hounds return four starters including sophomore point guard R.J. Williams (4ppg, 2.6 apg), who is suspended for a violation of team policy until mid-January. Even with Williams out, the Greyhounds have prospered.  

They opened the season on Nov. 9 with a 71-45 win over Binghamton at home. Two days later, Loyola had to travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament and lost its only game of the season, 85-63.  

On Nov. 14, the Greyhounds rebounded with an impressive win over local rival UMBC, 86-70, at Reitz Arena. Loyola followed that win with a trip to Uncasville, Conn. to take on Norfolk State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 17. The Greyhounds were victorious, 64-49, then followed that with a 67-64 win over Albany the next day.  

On Friday night, Loyola was back to Kingston, R.I. to take on the URI Rams, and came away with a solid non-conference win, edging Rhode Island, 58-54, in overtime.  

The Greyhounds have done a nice job in several categories in the first six games, including turnovers where they are forcing 14.5 per game and committing just 11.3. They are also out-rebounding their opponents 35.2 to 33.3. They shoot 44 percent from the field and force their opponents to shoot 41.4 percent. They are shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc and allowing opponents to shoot 33 percent.  

Junior guard Dylan Cormier (6-2, 172) has had to step up in Williams' absence, handling the point. He was second-team All-MAAC last year, averaging 23.4 ppg. Cormier leads the team in scoring with 16.8 ppg, and also adding 10 steals and 4.2 rebounds per game. Cormier shoots 46 percent from the field and 31 percent (4-of-13) from beyond the arc. He'll be on the floor most of the game as he averages 35.3 minutes per game.  

Senior guard Robert Olson (6-4, 189) joins Cormier in one of the best backcourts in the MAAC. The sharpshooter from Silver Spring, Md. was a third-team All-MAAC selection last year, averaging 11.1 ppg and 2.1 3-pointers made per game. This year, Olson ranks third on the team in scoring, at 12 ppg and also has nine steals. He's shooting 39 percent from the floor and 29 percent (12-of-41) from 3-point range. All but 18 of his shots come from beyond the arc.  

Up front, the Greyhounds are led by grad student Erik Etherly (6-7, 225). The explosive leaper is a transfer from Northeastern, who was a first-team all-conference player after averaging 13.7 ppg and 7.5 rpg and shooting 53 percent from the floor. This year, Etherly is second in scoring (15.7 ppg), first in rebounds (8 rpg), first in minutes per game (35.7) and first in blocks (10). He shoots 44 percent from the field and 64.4 percent from the foul line. His matchup against Towson's power forward Jerrelle Benimon should be key for both teams.  

Patsos has relied on his three top scorers and has rotated several different players up front. In their last game, grad student Anthony Wimbush (6-7, 194) received the start. Wimbush averages 6.7 ppg and 6 rpg while shooting 42 percent from the floor. He was the sixth man last season and defensive specialist who led the team with 39 steals per game and this year averages 31 minutes per game.  

At center, Loyola has rotated between senior Julius Brooks (6-9, 225) and junior Jordan Latham (6-8, 249), a transfer from Xavier who played just 12 minutes per game last year. Brooks averages 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 rebounds per game in four starts in 16.7 mpg. Latham averages 3.8 ppg and 3.4 rpg in 20.2 mpg.  

Another player for Loyola who has started five of six games but came off the bench against Rhode Island is freshman Jarred Jones (6-5, 185). Jones averages 3.7 ppg, 3 rpg and has seven blocks and seven steals in just 18.7 mpg.

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