Second Basketball Scouting Report: Loyola MD
What else is there to say after an agonizing overtime loss to Boston University this past Wednesday? Teams can either allow tough losses to strong opponents to break them down, or they can choose to respond with even more fire in the belly. What is Army made of? Let's see how the Black Knights answer a bit of adversity and heartbreak. Coach Zach Spiker will earn his bones in the coming days if he can keep this team playing with focus and determination.
Army doesn't want to face American University in the Patriot League semifinals. The goal for the remainder of the season (a realistic one, at any rate) is to fight past Holy Cross for the third seed in the league tournament and the right to draw Boston, not American, in a potential semifinal.
LOYOLA (MARYLAND) AT-A-GLANCE
It's hard to make a sweeping verdict about a lot of college basketball teams at the beginning of February – there are still five to six weeks left in a conference season (including the league tournament). However, the Greyhounds can be neatly pegged in one respect: They're a classic feast-or-famine team depending on where they play their games. Loyola is 4-5 in the Patriot League, with all four of its wins coming in home games and all five of its losses coming on the road. The Greyhounds might very well lose at home to American and Boston University in the coming weeks, but for now, they haven't yet absorbed a conference loss in their own building this season. Army must shrug off its recent pair of tough losses and take care of business.
What's harder to gauge about Loyola is how it will match up with Army in this second meeting between the two schools in 2014. In most of Loyola's road losses in the Patriot League, the Greyhounds' offense is what hasn't functioned well. The Greyhounds have been stuck in the 50s on most of those occasions. Yet, in Loyola's loss at Army, it played a game in the 80s while Army raced to a 91-point total. Offense is Loyola's main indicator of strength and quality, but the Greyhounds know that their defense is what let them down in West Point. How will that reality shape this contest on Saturday?
Forward – Jordan Latham – Senior, 6-9, 243; 2013-14: 5.8 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 1.1 blocked shots per game
Latham still isn't a high-volume producer for this team in any one statistical category, an important indicator of how much this team struggles to get two or three players to produce at a significant level in the same game. That's why Loyola is a middle-tier team in the Patriot League.
Forward – Franz Rassman – Sophomore, 6-9, 224; 2013-14: 5 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Rassman has replaced guard Jarred Jones in Loyola's starting lineup, although Jones is still getting starter-level minutes (a few more than Rassman). Jones is averaging 8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Jones' scoring average has dropped by nearly two points since the last time these two teams met.
Guard – Dylon Cormier – Senior, 6-3, 184; 2013-14: 21.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.1 steals per game
Cormier is still Loyola's best scorer and all-around player. The bad news? He's still Loyola's only elite scorer and formidable all-around player.
Guard – Eric Laster – Sophomore, 6-6, 195; 2013-14: 8.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 assists per game
Laster's scoring average has fallen off by roughly a full point since the last time these two teams met, and his assist average has slightly declined as well. Loyola needs more out of him if the team is going to make an upward push in the standings.
Guard – Tyler Hubbard – Sophomore, 6-2, 180; 2013-14: 5.9 ppg, 1.2 rpg
Hubbard has replaced fellow guard R.J. Williams in the Greyhounds' starting lineup. Williams, like Jones (another displaced starter), has not seen his minutes go down to any appreciable extent, but he's being brought off the bench at this point in Loyola's season. Williams currently averages 7.9 points, 2.3 boards, 4.1 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.
Keys to the Game
1) Clamp down on Cormier. Nothing has changed in terms of Loyola's scoring production and where it comes from. Cormier is still the only substantial threat on this team. Army can't let him get into a groove or find open looks at the basket. Making Cormier work for 22 points on, say, 7-of-19 shooting, is fine. Having Cormier glide to a 28-point performance on a 7-of-12 line with 10 free-throw makes and some putbacks would not be acceptable.
2) First-half offense. Army's second-half offense against Boston University was outstanding. Can the Black Knights throw down 40 points in the first half; again blitz Loyola's defense; and create panic in the Greyhounds' locker room at halftime in the process?
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