What went down: The Loyola men’s basketball team (8-1) was firing on all cylinders in its first game since an 87-53 loss to Boise State University Nov. 29. Loyola put on an offensive show in an 85-61 victory over inter-city rival University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Dec. 2.
How it happened: In front of 3,024 fans — the biggest crowd at Gentile Arena this season — the Ramblers shot 80 percent (8-of-10) from three-point range in the first half to take a commanding 52-24 lead into halftime. While UIC outscored Loyola 37-33 in the second half, it wasn’t enough to catch the sharpshooting Ramblers.
Analysis: Senior forward Aundre Jackson, who came into the game with a 62.7 shooting percentage, was on fire in the second half. The Kennedale, Texas native went 10-for-11 from the field to finish with 23 points in just 21 minutes. Jackson continues to be one of the most consistent scorers and a weapon down low for Loyola, and he could be instrumental with Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play starting Dec. 22.
First-year guard Lucas Williamson also played well against UIC. He finished the day with 14 points on just five total shots, going 4-for-5 (3-for-4 from three-point range) in 20 minutes. Williamson has seen more action in the wake of senior guard Ben Richardson’s absence and is averaging eight points per game in the six contests since Richardson’s hand injury Nov. 16. If Williamson continues at this pace, he could be another weapon off the bench for Loyola once Richardson returns.
Junior guard Adarius Avery saw his first minutes as a Rambler against UIC. Avery, who transferred from Connors State Community College this season, missed the first eight games while recovering from an arm injury. He wasted no time making his presence known, racking up one assist, one basket and one dunk in his first two minutes. He also drew a charging foul, which head coach Porter Moser said was a good sign for a player who hadn’t seen the court yet this season. Avery averaged 24.9 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game at Connors State last season, which shows he has the capability to be another key weapon for Loyola.
Loyola tallied 29 assists against UIC, led by first-year center Cameron Krutwig’s seven dishes. The 29 assists are the most for Loyola since dishing out 26 assists Nov. 12. Krutwig was one of four Ramblers with at least five assists, and Moser said sharing the ball is one of the biggest keys to winning games.
Moser’s thoughts: After the game, Moser said he was proud of how his team responded after the poor performance against Boise State and the way they performed in a rivalry game.
“I was very pleased with the guys’ focus,” Moser said. “It was a complete bounce back. We had a long stretch [culminating] at Boise, and the guys knew we were just a step slow [and] a step late on absolutely everything. I think they were excited to get the taste out of our mouth from the way we played.”
What’s next? The Ramblers will travel to Gainesville, Florida, to take on No. 6 ranked Florida University Dec. 6.