The Loyola men’s basketball team (14-6, 6-1) dominated Indiana State University 75-55 at Gentile Arena Thursday night. Tate Hall tied a season-high with 23 points to help secure the victory and move Loyola into sole possession of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC).
The Ramblers were tied for first place with the University of Northern Iowa heading into the day, but the Panthers lost to Southern Illinois University 68-66 Wednesday night.
Hall rode a hot hand, shooting a blistering 9-for-10 from the field. He was also a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point territory, and the Ramblers shot 8-for-12 from downtown as a team.
“Even when we weren’t shooting well [earlier in the year], I said, ‘We’re really good shooters, we just got to stay with it … the numbers are going to even out,’” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “Obviously, Tate gets in a groove like that, and I don’t know if he hit the rim.”
Following the game, Hall downplayed his scoring outburst, saying he “didn’t really think about it that much.” But Hall wasn’t shy when it came to talking about the impact a 20-point victory has on the team.
“I would say [this win] just helps our confidence,” Hall said. “We go into every game knowing that we’re going to win, and we prepare probably the best out of anybody in the country.”
There was a lot for Loyola to be confident about in the victory. After a messy start for both sides — Indiana State and Loyola combined for six turnovers in the first two minutes of the game before either side managed to even attempt a shot — the Ramblers quickly took control of the game.
Loyola led for almost 37 out of the 40 minutes of game time. The Ramblers’ lead reached as many as 27 points in the second half before the Sycamores managed to cut it down in the closing minutes.
The Ramblers won despite having two more turnovers than Indiana State. Loyola more than made up for that by shooting 67.4 percent from the field — its second-best mark of the season — while holding the Sycamores to 42.9 percent shooting.
Loyola junior center Cameron Krutwig nearly notched his second triple-double of the season in the effort with 13 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. The 6-foot-9 center tallied his first career triple-double against Vanderbilt University Dec. 18.
After the win against the Sycamores, Krutwig admitted he might’ve been trying to force the ball on a few occasions but said he was mainly focused on the win.
“I had a couple of passes kind of sail on me in transition,” Krutwig said. “Coach [Moser] got kind of mad, but then he said just keep playing.”
After the game, Moser said he wasn’t aware of how close Krutwig was to a triple-double and he was getting frustrated at some of Krutwig’s passes.
“I know he was close to another triple-double [but] I found out later,” Moser said. “Maybe that’s why he was throwing those passes like that. But I all of sudden catch myself because for every one play he makes like that, he makes like five good ones. He’s earned himself a little bit more of a leash.”
Loyola is scheduled to head to Northern Iowa Jan. 26. The Panthers are 16-3 overall this season, including 5-2 in conference play. Northern Iowa was ranked No. 35 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool — a metric used to help determine which of the 353 Division I teams receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Krutwig said he’s anticipating a good, hard fought game between the top-two teams in the MVC. He also said the biggest challenge will come with defending potential MVC Player of the Year A.J. Green. The sophomore guard is averaging 19.5 points per game, which ranks second in the MVC.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Krutwig said. “They’re really good. We think we’re really good. We’re going to have to stop Green. He’s kind of the head of the snake.”
Tip-off between the Ramblers and the Panthers is set for 3 p.m. on ESPN2.