The Loyola men’s basketball team (11-7, 4-1) moved into a tie for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) after a big 71-54 victory over Valparaiso University at Gentile Arena Jan. 15.
The Ramblers had six players score in double figures for the first time since Feb. 3, 2018. Redshirt sophomore guard Aher Uguak, sophomore center Cameron Krutwig and first-year guard Cooper Kaifes each had 12 points, while redshirt senior guards Clayton Custer and Marques Townes finished with 11 points apiece.
Sophomore guard Lucas Williamson also finished with 11 points while grabbing a game-high seven rebounds. This was Williamson’s third game back after he missed six games due to a broken hand. Head coach Porter Moser said this was Williamson’s best game since he returned.
“Lucas looked like Lucas of old,” Moser said after the game. “I didn’t think Lucas looked like Lucas the first couple games. Maybe it was playing one of his former Whitney Young teammates [Valparaiso guard Javon Freeman] that got him going again, but that was Lucas defensively: toughness, heart, passion. That was fun to see.”
After the game, Williamson talked about staying confident despite not playing his best basketball in the first two games since returning from his injury.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt since coming back,” Williamson said. “I didn’t want to get too hard on myself after the [University of] Evansville game, which was my first game back, and I didn’t think I played nearly to my potential.”
As a team, Loyola shot 53.3 percent from the field and 8-for-15 from three-point territory. The Ramblers also shot 78.9 percent on free throws, significantly up from their 64.4 percent season average coming into the game.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt since coming back … I didn’t want to get too hard on myself after the [University of] Evansville game, which was my first game back, and I didn’t think I played nearly to my potential.”Lucas Williamson
Valparaiso went into the match-up alone atop the MVC standings with a perfect 4-0 conference record and 11-6 overall. Although the Crusaders were on a five-game win streak, Loyola still had the better NCAA Evaluation Tool ranking — the Ramblers came in at 118th while the Crusaders were 171st out of 353 Division I teams.
“When we prepare for every game, we leave no stone unturned,” Moser said. “We talked about the last three days getting better, defensively … we didn’t talk about how big the game was because we talk about every game as a big game.”
On defense, Loyola held the Crusaders to just 43.3 percent shooting and 6-for-18 from three-point territory. The Ramblers also forced 14 turnovers and scored 23 points off those miscues. Valparaiso only scored eight points off Loyola’s 11 turnovers.
“The emphasis at halftime was just keep the foot on the gas and go on a big run so we can seal [the] game.”Aher Uguak
Loyola carried a 10-point lead into halftime, but expanded its lead with a 15-1 run to start the second half. Uguak said Moser’s halftime message was to continue to play with the same intensity in the final 20 minutes.
“There have been times at halftime that we’ve let up and let teams back in the game,” Uguak said. “The emphasis at halftime was just keep the foot on the gas and go on a big run so we can seal [the] game.”
Loyola is next scheduled to travel to Terre Haute, Indiana to face Indiana State University Jan. 19. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.