The Loyola men’s basketball team (10-5, 2-0) pulled off a comeback victory over Missouri State University 62-58 at Gentile Arena Saturday night. The Ramblers were led by junior center Cameron Krutwig with 23 points and seven rebounds.
The Ramblers fell in an early 26-16 hole with eight minutes remaining in the first half. But Loyola fought back to cut the deficit to three at halftime, and then take an early 31-30 lead after the break. Missouri State recaptured the lead, until a pair of Marquise Kennedy free throws gave Loyola a 48-47 edge it wouldn’t relinquish with 4:20 left in the game.
Loyola is now alone atop the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) as the only 2-0 team. This is the Ramblers’ second-straight close call in MVC play after they narrowly defeated Valparaiso University 66-63 Dec. 30.
“I know I’m going to say this every time, but it’s another night in The Valley,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said after Saturday’s game. “[Missouri State] has a bunch of high-level guys that can score that are problems to guard. … I was proud of our guys to keep battling … and to finally take the game.”
Missouri State came into the season picked to finish first in the MVC preseason poll, while Loyola was tabbed to come in fourth out of 10 teams. The NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ranks teams and helps determine which teams receive at-large bids into the NCAA Tournament. The Bears came into the game ranked No. 128 while Loyola was No. 142, according to the NET.
After the game, Moser specifically mentioned the battle in the paint between Krutwig and Missouri State junior forward Gaige Prim — who scored a team-high 14 points off the bench for the Bears. Krutwig said he was able to find success since the Bears didn’t swarm him defensively.
“They definitely guard us a little different than most Valley teams do,” Krutwig said after the game. “They didn’t really double-team or anything. They just kind of laid off me and said, ‘OK, go try and beat us one-on-one.’”
Loyola and Missouri State had different offensive attacks, with the Ramblers controlling the paint while Missouri State worked from the three-point line. Loyola scored 38 points in the paint compared to the Bears’ 16 points, but Missouri State shot 9-for-23 from downtown where the Ramblers shot just 2-for-10.
As a team, Loyola forced 19 Missouri State turnovers and scored 13 points of those takeaways. Meanwhile, the Ramblers only turned the ball over six times — the lowest of the season — and allowed just two points after the loss of possession.
After losing the first two games of the Cayman Islands Classic Nov. 25-26 to fall to 3-4 on the season, the Ramblers have rattled off a 7-1 record. Moser said health and experience affected the team’s early struggles and ability to improve throughout the year.
“We’ve gotten healthy,” Moser said when asked how the team turned things around. “Keith Clemons didn’t play in the Caymans, and since Keith came back, the only game we’ve lost is against Davidson, and Lucas [Williamson] went out in that one. We’re getting healthy, we’re getting contributions, we’re deep.”
Next, the Ramblers are set to travel to Des Moines, Iowa to play Drake University Jan. 7. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.