NEW ORLEANS — It could be the shortest road trip in college sports.
When Loyola plays Tulane on Tuesday, the Wolfpack merely need to walk a block down Freret Street from their gym to get to Devlin Fieldhouse.
With the universities so close, the rivalry is a big deal —for Loyola at least. The school will hold a pep rally in the Danna Student Center at 5 p.m. in advance of the tip-off at 7. The school mascot, Havoc T. Wolf, and a brass second-line band will lead Loyola loyalists across the street.
This is the first time the schools have met in an official game since the 2006-07 season, although there have been several exhibitions.
“There’s no question it’s a unique situation,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “It always makes for a competitive game. Anytime you’re playing somebody in your neighborhood, you forget about what you might know about them because they’re going to give you all they have.”
Tulane plays in Division I, but Loyola competes is in the NAIA’s Southern States Athletic Conference.
“It’s just a great opportunity to play our next-door neighbor,” coach Michael Giorlando said. “We’re very grateful for that opportunity. It gives us a good indicator of where we are in the season.”
Loyola (5-3) enters the clash coming off a 78-77 victory over Webber International on Saturday, won by McCall Tomeny’s last-second shot. Junior guard Robert Lovaglio leads Loyola in scoring (22.5 points) and rebounding (7.6).
Giorlando said his team needs to improve on the boards and strengthen its transition defense to compete.
“We’re doing OK,” he said. “We feel like we’re making progress, which is what we want to do early in the season. I do see the team getting better.”
Squaring off against the Wave will greatly aid in that process, he said.
“We know it will be a huge challenge,” Giorlando said. “Their perimeter players are great scorers, and their inside players are very strong. We’ll use this to gauge where we are in the season.”
Tulane (4-2) is coming off a 68-65 victory against Southern on Saturday. Junior forward Josh Davis had 20 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, improving his team-best averages to 19.2 and 10.5.
“Josh has really dedicated himself to improving,” Conroy said. “He’s converting from the 3-point line, and he’s rebounding like crazy. He’s a very versatile player who can guard anyone on the floor.”
But given the nature of the opponent, Conroy said he will be more interested in getting playing time for freshmen Louis Dabney and Kajon Mack while bringing along Tomas Bruha and Kendall Timmons, who are recovering from injuries.
“I never believed in having a limited rotation,” Conroy said. “This is the time of year when you see what guys can do. We’d like to pick up the pace on both ends of the floor but, to do that, you need nine, 10 or 11 guys who can play.”
For Giorlando, the game also is about future dividends.
“We just have a tremendous amount of respect for Ed Conroy and the work they put in,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s great for us. It’s great for both schools.”