Men's Basketball

Men’s Basketball Reaping Benefits of Improved Players

Steve WoltmannBruno Skokna drives to the hoop for a layup.

Last season, the Loyola men’s basketball team finished in the bottom half of all team offensive categories in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), going 15-17 overall and 7-11 in the conference. The Ramblers shot 42.6 percent — including 34.7 percent from three-point range — and senior guard Devon Turk led the team with a 45.0 percent field goal average.

Fast-forward to today. Loyola (14-7, 4-4) boasts a 50.5 field goal percentage, good for first in the MVC and sixth in the nation. The Ramblers are also at the top of The Valley in three-point percentage, shooting 39.2 percent from downtown.

Loyola ranks second in the MVC in three categories: points per game (76.5), assists per game (16.0) and assists/turnover ratio (1.4).

The team stats are impressive, but it’s the individual play that is most impressive. Head coach Porter Moser is able to run his fast system of offense, with a lot of play from the guards. As a result, numbers are up for individuals. Junior guard Donte Ingram, after recovering from a knee injury, is shooting the second-highest three point percentage in the MVC (47.8 percent). The fast- flowing offense is helping fellow junior guard Ben Richardson, who has more assists at this point (67) than he did all of last season (52).

The newcomers are putting on a show, too. Redshirt sophomore Clayton Custer averages 11.8 points per game, and he’s dishing out 69 assists to average 3.29 per game in his first season as a Rambler, having transferred from Iowa State University.

Although those stats are noteworthy, they’re not the ones raising eyebrows around the conference. Junior forward and three-time MVC Newcomer of the Week Aundre Jackson is making his case for Newcomer of the Year. He’s shooting 70.8 percent from the field to lead the MVC by almost 13 percent, making him fourth in the nation for shooting accuracy.

Jackson’s signature move — the reverse layup under the basket — makes him difficult to defend. He said the strategy developed as a result of the size disadvantage he had when he was younger.

“Growing up, I always got my shot blocked,” said Jackson, “So, I had to figure out something. I could either be a bad player or find a way to score.”

Senior guard Milton Doyle is another Rambler lighting up the stat sheet. He’s currently the only Valley player in the top five for points per game (15.8) and top five for assists per game (4.5).

Doyle said this year’s team is different than his previous teams at Loyola because this year’s players have improved and make their opponents work harder.

“Donte stepped up a lot, [and] adding Clay to the mix has made us tougher to guard,” Doyle said. “We just have to build some guys’ confidence up off the bench.”

Head coach Porter Moser said he aims to improve on players’ skills from last season, which he said will contribute to offensive success.

“Donte [Ingram]’s development has been huge,” said Moser. “Ben Richardson’s development [helps, too]. Then, you add Clay [Custer] to the mix, and then, you add Aundre to the mix. So, development in the offseason is a big part of our program.”

The Ramblers are scheduled to host Bradley University on Jan. 25 and are set to hit the road to square off against Indiana State University on Jan. 28.

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