The Loyola men’s basketball team (4-3) fell 79-65 to No. 5-ranked University of Nevada in front of a sold-out crowd at Gentile Arena Tuesday night. The game was a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen, when the Ramblers defeated the Wolf Pack 69-68 on a last-second three-pointer by Marques Townes.
Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said the team came in looking for revenge after the loss back in March, but the players were nervous after traveling straight to Chicago from two games in Las Vegas.
“I think we were ready to play,” Musselman said. “Loyola had such an incredible year last year and certainly we gave all the credit to how they played last year throughout the whole tournament, but we felt we didn’t play how we were capable of. I thought the focus in the locker room before [today’s] game was phenomenal.”
The Wolf Pack’s field goal percentage never dipped below 50 percent as they went 32-for-55 from the field, including 6-for-14 from three-point territory. Redshirt senior forwards Caleb and Cody Martin led their team in points with 21 and 20, respectively. Senior guard Jordan Caroline had 15 points and Trey Porter scored 14 to round out the scoring.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser said Nevada was tough to defend due to the height of its players. Nine players on the Wolf Pack’s roster are six-foot-seven or taller, which made it hard for the Ramblers to match up against since their tallest player is six-foot-nine.
“I thought Nevada was just so physically opposing defensively,” Moser said. “You’ve got to give them credit from both ends. I thought they were just physically tough and they have the tough shot making abilities.”
The Ramblers couldn’t seem to gain control of the game, despite their increased offensive presence in the second half. Loyola hit 39.3 percent of its shots in the field in the first half and 46.9 percent in the second half.
Townes said the loss can be attributed to the Ramblers coming out flat at the beginning of the game, a trend Loyola has followed so far this season.
“I figured they’d come out with a punch. A usual response when you’ve [angered] a team,” Townes said. “We came out flat. I feel like they ‘out-physicaled’ us today and we just didn’t respond.”
Townes led Loyola in scoring with 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting. He also added 9 rebounds — seven of which were defensive rebounds.
First-year guard Cooper Kaifes came out strong in the second half and created some much-needed action for the Ramblers. While he only scored 11 points, he went 4-for-7 from the field and hit two of five three-pointers to try and get the Ramblers back in the game.
“Big positive: I thought [Kaifes] was absolutely not afraid of the moment, not afraid of the stage,” Moser said. “I thought [Kaifes] stepped up. I thought he was really trying to work his defense and to be that bright spot.”
Despite the offensive in the second half effort put up by both Townes, Kaifes and sophomore center Cameron Krutwig, the team was unable to pull forward and fell to the Wolf Pack 79-65.
“I thought they battled to the end,” Moser said. “We got beat by a very good team.”
After the game, Moser said sophomore guard Lucas Williamson suffered a hand injury and went for X-rays to be further evaluated.
The Ramblers are scheduled to make the short trip to the West Loop Dec. 1 to take on University of Illinois at Chicago. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.