BALTIMORE --- With Loyola, it was safe to assume Dylon Cormier, Erik Etherly and Robert Olson would handle plenty of responsibilities this season.
The defending Metro Atlantic champions had three starters back at the start of the year, with a fourth (R.J. Williams) rejoining the active roster in mid-January.
Still, the Greyhounds needed someone to emerge as a post presence, even in a complementary role.
And that someone turned out to be senior Julius Brooks, who had 13 points on a perfect shooting night in Thursday's 68-64 defeat of Canisius.
"It really means a lot," Brooks said. "From freshman year on to now, I've been through so much with deaths in the family. I've been up. I've been down. I've had certain problems on and off the court. This year, I'm just putting it all behind me and I'm just going for it."
This is the same guy who started for much of his freshman year, then scored 34 points in 44 games over the last two seasons. He played in most of Loyola's 34 games a year ago, but it was easy to overlook a guy averaging 4.7 minutes.
Loyola greatly benefitted from Shane Walker's presence in recent seasons, but it's tough to argue anyone took a hit in playing time more than Brooks. Yet he's still mustered a solid senior year in mostly a reserve role.
Brooks reached double figures for the fourth time this season Thursday, helping the Greyhounds (18-9, 10-5 Metro Atlantic) fend off the Golden Griffins (16-10, 9-6). He's now shooting 62.2 percent from the floor for the season, and in his last four games is averaging 9.3 points and 6.0 rebounds on 88.9 percent shooting (16 of 18).
"I'm really happy for Julius becaue I know it's been a tough four years for him," Olson said. "He's been really consistent and it's been great to see him consistently get six boards and eight points, 10 points and five boards. That's what we need, him blocking shots and getting rebounds."
With four games left before the Metro Atlantic tournament, some things haven't changed. Cormier, Etherly and Olson figure to be the primary offensive forces once the Greyhounds get to Springfield, Mass.
But if they want to repeat as conference champions, they'll need Brooks to complete a solid finish to his career as well.
"Julius is one of the nicest guys I've ever coached," coach Jimmy Patsos said. "Julius has done one thing this year that I ask them all to do: Grow up. Some guys grow up faster than others."
Five other takeaways from the Greyhounds' victory:
1. Might this be a step closer to consistency for Loyola?
Since the start of December, the Greyhounds' longest winning streak is three. Their longest losing streak is two. In short, they haven't gotten particularly hot or cold.
Instead, they've just piled up more wins than losses. On this particular night, Loyola created some separation from Canisius, then repelled the Golden Griffins as needed on a couple occasions to secure a season split.
"We played great Friday [against Siena] in front of the best fans in the MAAC," Patsos said. "Our students are the best in the MAAC when they come. Friday night was unbelievable. Sunday we dropped the ball [at Marist]. Today we played well."
Loyola has four splits in league play (Canisius, Marist, Niagara and Rider) to go with a pair of sweeps (Fairfield and St. Peter's). It's beaten everyone in the Metro Atlantic except Iona, and can still take a second game from Manhattan and Siena.
It's an interesting spot, never seeming invulnerable but always loitering near the top of the standings.
"I don't know where we are right now," Patsos said. "I just know we keep winning. We've been winning since we started this year."
2. It was a feisty Patsos who met with reporters.
The veteran coach took the opportunity to take issue with a lack of coverage in the student newspaper, even bringing a copy as a prop to his postgame press conference.
"I worked for Gary Williams," Patsos said. "I'm a nice guy. I love Loyola. It's a great place. But when we're not in the newspaper with the most wins in the state of Maryland, I don't think it's OK. Because Gary taught me I'm supposed to say something, correct?"
It does bring up an interesting point, namely that Loyola has chugged along quite nicely over the last five years compared to the rest of the state.
VICTORIES SINCE 2008-09, DIVISION I TEAMS IN MARYLAND
84: Morgan State
65: Mount St. Mary's
56: Coppin State
Also, Loyola's 42 wins over the last two seasons is the most in the state; Maryland has 34 in that span.
"Sometimes this is a negative area in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore and they're afraid to say how great you are," Patsos said. "Well, I'm not afraid."
3. If the Greyhounds could fix anything from Thursday, it would be their offensive rebounding.
Canisius' 46.4 offensive rebounding percentage helped keep it in the game, and nearly a third of the Golden Griffins' scoring (21 of 64 points) came off second-chance points.
Chalk some of that up to Canisius' willingness to rely on 3-point shooting. But there were certainly some frustrating moments as second and third opportunities presented themselves and the Golden Griffins extended possessions.
That generally isn't a problem for Loyola, and it may well be an opponent-specific issue. But it had to be a bit maddening for Patsos that the problem lingered nearly all night.
4. Loyola is a step closer to a top-two seed in the Metro Atlantic.
In a 10-team league, the last thing any team needs is to finish in the bottom four --- and thus add an extra game to its conference tournament schedule.
The best thing a team can do is finish in the top two and get a quarterfinal against a team coming off less than 24 hours rest.
Loyola is a half-game up on third-place Iona (9-5) and a full game up on both Canisius and Rider (9-6 each). Should the Greyhounds win out, they'll finish no worse than second in the MAAC --- and that should suit Loyola just fine.
5. No more hair-raising adventures for Robert Olson.
The senior guard has arguably the second-most famous hair among college basketball players in the state, behind only Maryland's Jake Layman.
Make that had the second-most famous locks.
"That guy made me cut it," Olson said, referring to Patsos.
Which does beg the question: What is it with coaches asking their players to get a haircut, anyway?
One sidenote: When Olson had a picture taken with Patsos during a senior ceremony after the game, Patsos snagged Olson's headband. Here's the photographic evidence of that split-second decision and Olson's new look.
--- Patrick Stevens