American fell to Loyola 86-84 Wednesday night in a crazy game during which the Eagles blew multiple double-digit leads in the second half, 38 fouls were called, and the Greyhounds won with two free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining. See below for five key plays/sequences from the game.
1. Sa’eed can’t be stopped
The junior guard had one of his worst shooting games in the teams’ first meeting, and he made sure to erase that memory early on Wednesday. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field in the first half with four assists to pace an American offense that was really good when it didn’t turn the ball over (15-21 on 2s, 8 turnovers. Loyola was solid offensively, too, which led to a 35-35 score at halftime.
2. Refs get happy whistles
In the first half, the refs called a total of 10 fouls. In the second, they called 28. What had been a fast-paced, fluid game was slowed to a slog by whistles some 5-plus minutes into the second half. American was in the bonus by the under-12 media timeout, and Loyola joined the Eagles a few minutes later. In the last 10 minutes, American was whistled 11 times. Many of the calls were legitimate; a few to a handful didn’t appear so. What’s certain is that the refs’ whistles changed the game and the way it was played, and defender were suddenly on needles just trying not to make obvious contact. With American’s defensive aggressiveness limited, Loyola scored 29 points in the final eight minutes and shot a total of 25 free throws.
3. Kostecka’s late steals
American knew coming into the game that the Patriot League’s leading scorer was also its best steals man, but the Eagles didn’t play like it. Kostecka got three huge layups late, one off a botched offensive rebound by AU, and two off steals as Loyola crept back into the game. He finished with 31 points and five thefts.
4. Casmir Ochiaka’s huge three-point plays
The freshman big man hadn’t scored more than seven points in a game prior to Wednesday — and probably wouldn’t have played as much if not for KaVaughn Scott’s early ankle injury — but he was pivotal to the Greyhounds’ comeback late with not one, not two, but three three-point plays including the finale that put Loyola up 84-82. The foul calls on him were among the refs’ most legitimate, too, as American hacked the big man once he had the ball in prime position. He finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds despite playing the last several minutes with four fouls.
5. The final foul
It was kind of inevitable, wasn’t it? When Isaiah Hart drove toward the basket with Jacob Boonyasith on his hip, the ref’s whistle didn’t surprise. Sure, it pains to see a call decide a game late, but the way things had been called for the last half hour, this was inevitable. Legally, it might have been a foul. Blatant it was not. For some reason, the broadcast doesn’t provide a replay. Bottom line, Hart might the smart play and then made the free throws. A Sam Iorio desperation 3 was off after a timeout, and American fell in a maniacal finish at Bender Arena.