After starting 2-0 in Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play for the first time ever, the Loyola men’s basketball team (9-7, 2-1) fell to University of Evansville 67-48 in Evansville, Indiana Tuesday night.
The Ramblers never found an offensive rhythm, committing 17 turnovers and shooting just 37.3 percent from the field in the loss. Redshirt senior guard Marques Townes led Loyola with 14 points while first-year center Franklin Agunanne scored 13 points and snagged four rebounds — all of which came in eight second-half minutes. Sophomore center Cameron Krutwig added 10 points and five rebounds.
The loss ended Loyola’s hopes of beginning conference play at 3-0 for the first time since 2001-02 when it was in the Horizon League. The Ramblers dished a season-low six assists and tied their season-low three-point shooting percentage, going 1-for-7 from downtown.
Evansville improved to 8-8 overall with the win and 2-1 in MVC play. The Purple Aces, who were picked to finish last out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll, are now 8-1 on their home court. They’ve also beaten Ball State University — which beat Loyola 75-69 Dec. 6 — and MVC foe Drake University at the Ford Center.
Loyola sophomore guard Lucas Williamson returned to the lineup against Evansville after missing eight games with a broken hand, which he suffered in a loss to then-No. 5 University of Nevada Nov. 27. The game also saw flagrant fouls handed out to both teams, as Krutwig and Evansville’s Dainius Chatkevicius received warnings after they fought for a rebound under the basket.
In the first half, the Ramblers continued an early season trend of slow starts as they trailed 14-6 after the second media timeout with 11:40 remaining in the half. Their struggles continued despite eight points from Townes to close the half, and they headed for the locker room down 32-20.
The second half was more of the same as Evansville kept the momentum by scoring the first seven points of the half and led 39-20 with 18:11 left in the game. The Purple Aces kept their foot on the gas pedal throughout the half and outscored the Ramblers 35-28 to secure a 67-48 victory.
Loyola is next scheduled to take on Illinois State University at Gentile Arena Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. The game is sold out and will be nationally broadcasted on ESPN2.