What went down: The Loyola men’s basketball team (18-4, 8-2) took on the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) at Gentile Arena Jan. 28. The Ramblers defeated the Panthers 70-47 to open up a two-game lead in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings.
How it happened: Both teams struggled on offense out of the gate, but Loyola pulled away toward the end of the first half and took a 26-19 lead into the break. The Ramblers turned on the gas in the second half, shooting 57.7 percent from the field to finish off the victory.
Analysis: The Ramblers were led by redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer’s season-high 21 points against UNI. In seven games since coming back from an ankle injury suffered Dec. 6, Custer is averaging 14.6 ppg. He was a spark to the sluggish offense and continues to impress during his second season at Loyola.
Senior forward Donte Ingram had 16 points, all of which came in the second half, and eight rebounds. After scoring just five points against Drake University Jan. 25, Ingram rebounded well against UNI and continues to be a threat from the three-point line while also snagging 6.5 rpg.
First-year center Cameron Krutwig had another big game, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Krutwig continues to open eyes during his rookie season, averaging 9.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg, and is a valuable weapon for Loyola.
The Ramblers now have 18 wins overall and eight MVC wins through 22 games compared to last season’s 18 overall wins and eight MVC wins total. With eight games left before the MVC tournament March 1-4, Loyola is on pace to have its best season since 2014-15, when it won the College Basketball Invitational. The last time Loyola won 18 of its first 22 games was during the 1965-66 season, in which it made the NCAA tournament.
Loyola is also riding a seven-game MVC winning streak. The last time the Ramblers won seven straight conference games was 1984-85, the last time they made the big dance.
Moser’s thoughts: In the postgame press conference, head coach Porter Moser said he felt the team’s defense didn’t waver when the offense was quiet at the beginning of the game.
“I thought earlier in the year, if our offense wasn’t clicking, it affected our defense,” Moser said. “That’s maturity as a team. That’s growth as a team. Our offense wasn’t clicking very well … but I thought we maintained really good defense.”
What’s next? The Ramblers are scheduled to head to Peoria to take on Bradley University Jan. 31.