The Loyola men’s basketball team (14-9, 7-3) continued its conference road woes Saturday night as it fell to Illinois State University 65-57 at Redbird Arena in Normal.
The loss dropped the Ramblers into a tie for first place with the Redbirds after 10 conference games, and fall to 2-3 away from Gentile Arena in conference play. In the defeat, Loyola was led by redshirt senior guard Marques Townes who finished with 19 points. Sophomore center Cameron Krutwig also guided the Ramblers with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Bouncing back from a 67-64 loss at Gentile Arena Jan. 12 the Redbirds made adjustments to even the season series at a game a piece and tightened the conference race heading into the final eight games of the year. ISU was led by senior guards Milik Yarbrough and Keyshawn Evans who combined for 35 of the Redbirds’ 65 points.
“We weren’t good enough defensively to overcome our offensive woes, simple as that,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “It’s a tough loss but you can’t get too low, obviously it’s an upset locker room right now, but at the end of the day this conference race is gonna be about who bounces back.”
In the first half, Loyola struggled to contain Yarbrough as he went 3-for-4 from long range and finished with 15 points. The Ramblers shot 47.6 percent from the field as Krutwig and Townes chipped in a combined 18 first half points. Despite this, they headed for the locker room down 35-25.
“It was [the swing of the game] and it really gave us an energy too.” Illinois State head coach Dan Muller said. “It was a struggle for both teams to score for a while due to great defense but those two threes were huge and like I said the energy and the separation with the score were big.”
The second half saw the Ramblers struggle to get anything going offensively as they shot only 34.5 percent from the field and couldn’t ever cut the Redbird lead to less than six points. These saw the Redbirds coast to a 65-57 victory as the final buzzer sounded.
The Ramblers shooting woes were headlined by their inability to convert from beyond the arch as they finished 5-25 as a team in the loss. Redshirt senior Clayton Custer was the root of these struggles, as he finished with eight points but shot 1-12 from three point range.
“Loyola didn’t have [its] best game,” Muller said. “Custer really struggled and missed shots he normally makes but we did some really good things up until the end.”
The Ramblers are headed back to Gentile Arena Feb. 5 to take on Drake University at 6:00 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.