What went down: The Loyola men’s basketball team (4-0) took on Samford University at Gentile Arena Nov. 19. Despite playing without senior guard Ben Richardson, who suffered a broken hand against the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Nov. 16, the Ramblers managed to hold off the Bulldogs 88-67.
How it happened: Loyola shot 54.2 percent in the first half and outrebounded the Bulldogs 20-13 to take a 41-27 lead at the break. However, the Ramblers struggled in the second half and saw the lead cut to as little as eight points. In the last few minutes, Loyola turned on the jets and went on a 15-4 run to come out on top and start the season 4-0 for the first time since 2010-11.
Analysis: Redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer, fresh off a 20-point performance against UMKC, dropped 18 points and dished nine assists against Samford in 38 out of 40 minutes. Custer currently leads the team with an average of 15.5 points per game.
Redshirt junior guard Marques Townes also turned in another quality performance, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Townes, who transferred from Fairleigh Dickinson University, is now averaging 15 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He seems to be fitting in nicely with Loyola’s offense after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules.
One surprise during the game was first-year guard Lucas Williamson seeing 30 minutes off the bench. Williamson went 4-of-5 from the field for 11 points, and head coach Porter Moser said Williamson will likely see more minutes with Richardson on the bench for the next 4-to-6 weeks.
First-year forward Christian Negron saw action for the first time this season after being sidelined for the last 14 months with knee injuries. In six minutes of play, Negron grabbed his first collegiate rebound and scored his first points off free throws at the end of the game. Now that Negron is cleared, Moser can platoon him with fellow first-year big man Cameron Krutwig, who started in Richardson’s place against Samford.
One area the Ramblers struggled in, however, was beating Samford’s press. In the second half, Loyola was having trouble getting the ball in bounds, at one point getting called for a five-second violation. Without a scrappy player like Richardson, the Ramblers couldn’t get around the Bulldog defense which almost cost them the game.
Moser’s thoughts: After the game, Moser said the Ramblers’ persistence despite almost letting a 20-point lead slip away was reassuring in his effort to get his team to start finishing games strong.
“One of the things I loved the most was that there was a little adversity [in having a] 20-point lead and having it cut to eight,” Moser said. “Adversity. You could feel it. You could cut it in the arena, and I loved how we answered it coming out of that timeout.”
What’s next? The Ramblers are scheduled to take on Mississippi Valley State University Nov. 21 in Gentile Arena at 7 p.m.