What went down: The Loyola men’s basketball team (20-5, 10-3) took on Drake University at Gentile Arena Wednesday night. The Ramblers defeated the Bulldogs 72-57 for their 20th win of the season and 10th Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) win, the first time they’ve done that in program history. The win also marks the first time Loyola has won 20 games before the conference tournament since 2006-07.
How it happened: After taking a 32-28 lead in the locker room, the Ramblers shot 56.7 percent after the break and outscored the Bulldogs 40-29 in the second half in front of 2,800 fans at the annual Jesuit Jam. Jesuit Jam is the night Loyola honors its Jesuit community. First-year center Cameron Krutwig led Loyola with 17 points while adding nine rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer added 14 points and senior guard Ben Richardson had 11 points and six assists.
Analysis: Krutwig scored in double figures for the eighth straight contest and is averaging 14.8 ppg during that span. He’s making a case for MVC Freshman of the Year honors and will pose a serious threat to the other ten teams as he develops.
After scoring 20 or more points in three straight games, Custer’s 14 points continued his most recent scoring stretch. The Overland Park, Kansas native leads Loyola with 14.4 ppg and Loyola improves to 18-4 when he’s in the lineup. As he checked out against Drake, the student section began chanting “MVP” as he’s put himself in the running for MVC Player of the Year over the last few weeks.
Since coming back from a hand injury suffered Nov. 16, Richardson has struggled to find his shot. He’s scored 11 points in three straight games after scoring no more than nine in his first nine games back. Richardson is starting to gain more confidence, particularly from three-point land where he’s shooting 8-of-16 over the last three games. Coupled with his ability to share the ball, Richardson’s shooting will help the Ramblers’ offense continue to open eyes around the MVC.
Loyola committed nine turnovers — eight in the first half alone — while dishing 21 assists. Head coach Porter Moser said the team goal for each game is to get 15 or more assists and less than 10 turnovers. Loyola has achieved both in two straight games and has won by an average of 18.5 points, and averaging 22.5 assists over that span. If Loyola wants to maintain its 1.5 game lead in the MVC standings, that trend must continue.
The Ramblers’ performance this season continues to exceed expectations after being picked to finish third in the MVC preseason poll, and it’s looking likely that they’ll see postseason action for the first time since winning the College Basketball Invitational in 2015.
Moser’s thoughts: In the postgame press conference, Moser said he was happy with his team’s performance after halftime and how the players worked together on offense.
“I loved our second half and how we pushed the tempo to start the half,” Moser said. “I thought … we took care of the ball much better in the second half. We have that [goal of] plus-15 [assists] and minus-10 [turnovers] … and this is the second straight game we were over 20 assists. We were 21 and nine. So I loved how we were sharing the ball and moving the ball.”
What’s next? The Ramblers are scheduled to travel to Indiana State University Feb. 10.