The Loyola men’s basketball (5-1, 12-6) team is on a three-game win streak after defeating Illinois State University 62-50 at Redbird Arena Sunday afternoon.
Redshirt junior guard Tate Hall led the Ramblers with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Junior center Cameron Krutwig was held to only seven points, but grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
A close first half turned into a runaway second half. Illinois State is currently ninth out of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), but Loyola head coach Porter Moser was expecting the Redbirds to come out aggressive.
“You’re going to have adversity, especially in this league,” Moser said. “Everybody’s going to make runs off you. Everybody’s going to play their tail off. I thought Illinois State played their tail off. We were really guarded. We just kept on cutting and finally some things loosened up in the second half.”
The first half was sloppy for both teams. Loyola committed 10 turnovers and the Redbirds had 13. Both teams shot under 50 percent from all fronts — with the exception of the Ramblers shooting at 80 percent from the charity stripe.
It was close from the tip-off, with the lead changing a total of nine times between the two Illinois teams. The largest lead of the first half came from Loyola by four points with 30 seconds left in the half.
The Ramblers went 4-for-9 from beyond the arc with all four coming from Hall and junior guard Keith Clemons. The pair led the team with eight points apiece as Loyola headed to the locker room with a 28-24 lead.
Clemons and first-year guard Marquise Kennedy found themselves with injuries during the half. Clemons had a split lip. Kennedy went down with what seemed to be a knee injury and limped off the court. Both players returned to the game in the second half, and Moser said Kennedy was “fine” after the game.
Loyola entered the second half on a 8-0 run that extended to 12-0 before Redbird senior guard Zach Copeland hit back-to-back three pointers. He brought the game to a four point difference and forced Moser to take a timeout.
After the timeout, the tides changed and the Ramblers carried the momentum all the way to a 62-50 result.
Moser said the win was because of two things — aggressive defense and three-point success.
The Ramblers forced 22 turnovers from the Redbirds, tallied 13 steals and grabbed 26 defensive rebounds — although they gave up nine offensive rebounds and only grabbed two. Moser credited Krutwig as a big source of the defensive success.
“You could really hear Krutwig talking on defense,” Moser said. “Everyone around heard Krutwig yelling out different stuff. He was really loud defensively.”
In addition to the defensive success, Loyola went 9-for-19 beyond the arc — one short of its season-high 10 three pointers. Six different players hit a triple.
The 47.4 percent from downtown was something Illinois State head coach Dan Muller wasn’t expecting, but wasn’t surprised about due to the focus on Krutwig in the paint.
“They shot it great from the three-point line today, they hadn’t been doing that,” Muller said. “There were some breakdowns without a doubt. A lot of it was fronting [Krutwig]. It’s not a shot we’re willing to give up, it’s just a shot they’re going to get and we need to contest better.”
Although they pulled out the win, the Ramblers weren’t happy with the 17 turnovers they faced. Hall said the team tried to focus on it, but ultimately weren’t able to stop Illinois State’s offense from taking the ball.
“We always preach taking care of the ball,” Hall said. “One of our game goals is plus 15 minus 10 — 15 assists, 10 turnovers.”
Loyola came into the game 4-1 in MVC play and 12-6 overall after being voted to finish fourth in the preseason poll. Meanwhile, Illinois State was 1-4 in conference and 6-11 overall. The only MVC team the Redbirds has won against is University of Northern Iowa, which is tied for first place with Loyola.
The Ramblers are next scheduled to face Indiana State University Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at Gentile Arena. The game is set to be broadcast on ESPNU.