Loyola rolled to a 76-57 victory over UMBC. It had superior offensive rebounding when it mattered most to credit for the triumph.
The Greyhounds scored 13 second-chance points in the first half (aided by 52.6 offensive rebounding percentage before the break) to snap a two-game slide to open the season.
Whether it was Jarred Jones or Cam Gregory, Loyola largely had its way in the paint in the first half. It provided more than enough of a cushion to withstand a brief spurt from the Retrievers (0-3) in the second half before re-asserting control in the last 12 minutes.
A few other takeaways from Loyola's ninth consecutive victory in the series. ...
1. Loyola isn't going to overthink things against teams with vulnerable frontcourts. The Greyhounds badly missed Jarred Jones, who played in only two games a season ago because of a knee injury, and it was clear in their exhibition earlier this month they would play through him. The 6-foot-7 redshirt junior appears prepared to handle it.
Jones (26 points, 11 rebounds) scored with ease against the UMBC frontcourt, some of it on second-chance opportunities but much of it simply from outplaying whoever happened to be matched up on him. Loyola's struggled in its first couple years in the Patriot League, but it boasts the advantage of possessing one of the league's most athletic big men. That alone makes the Greyhounds a bit of a sleeper in the balanced league.
2. The bounceback was a welcome development for the Greyhounds coming off a brutal loss. Loyola dropped a 71-68 decision to LIU Brooklyn on Monday, a setback notable for two reasons: It overcame a 13-point deficit, and it lost on a 23-footer banked in at the buzzer.
It's early, and that sort of setback shouldn't really change the trajectory of the season for a team that knows full well its year will be defined by conference play and the league tournament. A solid showing the next time out, though, doesn't hurt. Loyola needed a little more than four minutes to build a 10-4 lead and never trailed in a mostly comfortable victory.
3. Rodney Elliott doesn't look like he's too far off from where he was a year ago. Just as Loyola knows Jones is its best player, UMBC is cognizant it played nearly all of last season without its most effective offensive player. Elliott, the America East's rookie of the year in 2013-14, was lost to season-ending shoulder surgery after last year's opener.
Coach Aki Thomas has surrounded Elliott with more talent than two seasons ago, though much of it remains young. The Retrievers are going to need Elliott to maintain a heavy offensive load; with 13 points against Wake Forest, 16 against St. John's and now 19 against Loyola, he's already playing a crucial role in the season's opening week.
4. The return of Will Darley is only going to help UMBC. The junior missed the Retrievers' first two games with injury, and his absence for 11 games with a knee injury last season only escalated the pressure on a roster that was critically shorthanded.
UMBC used a nine-man rotation in Darley's absence to start this year, a luxury it didn't have nearly all of last year. But he still had seven points and three rebounds in 15 minutes in his season debut, and a healthy Darley should help alleviate some of the pressure on the one freshman the Retrievers have pressed into the starting lineup (Joe Sherburne). Still, expect a big role for Sherburne, who has scored eight points Wednesday after reachin double figures in the first two games and logged at least 30 minutes in all three contests.