What went down: The Loyola men’s basketball team (24-5, 14-3) traveled to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois University Wednesday night and defeated the Salukis 75-56. The Ramblers clinched first place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) and the No. 1 seed in the MVC tournament March 1-4. This marks the first time Loyola has won an outright conference title since the 1984-85 season as a member of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
How it happened: Loyola shot lights out to start the game, leading by as much as 17 points at one point. But, Southern Illinois stormed back and Loyola took an eight-point lead into halftime. After the break, the Ramblers outscored the Salukis 31-20 to win the MVC title outright.
Analysis: The offense was clicking once again for the Ramblers. Loyola shot 57.4 percent from the field and never trailed in the game. The Ramblers also held Southern Illinois to 42.6 percent shooting, including 6-for-19 from outside the three-point line.
One of Loyola’s biggest goals for each game is to dish at least 15 assists and commit 10 or fewer turnovers, according to head coach Porter Moser. The Ramblers achieved their goal against the Salukis, dishing 18 assists while committing 10 turnovers. That goal will be the biggest key for Loyola heading into the final game of the season and into the MVC tournament.
Three Ramblers scored in double figures for Loyola, led by redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer’s 16 points. Loyola improves to 22-2 with Custer in the starting lineup and his name will be thrown around in the MVC Player of the Year conversation as the regular season winds down.
Senior forward Aundre Jackson had 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in the effort. First-year center Cameron Krutwig had 14 points and six rebounds. With Jackson and Krutwig playing well while splitting time with each other, Moser has a two-headed monster down low, which will create headaches for opposing teams.
With the No. 1 seed secured, Moser and his squad are scheduled to play March 2 at noon against the winner of the No. 8 seed and No. 9 seed. Loyola is one of two teams in the MVC to secure a seed for Arch Madness, as Valparaiso University will be the No. 10 seed.
What’s next? Loyola is scheduled to take on Illinois State University for its final game of the regular season at a sold-out Gentile Arena Feb. 24.