Junior forward Alexis Meyer started her first game of the season and propelled the Loyola women’s basketball team (14-7, 5-5) to a 65-55 victory over Indiana State University Thursday night at Gentile Arena. Meyer finished with a game-high 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field.
The Ramblers snapped a three-game losing skid that started with a shocking two-point loss to Valparaiso University Jan. 24. Then, the Ramblers dropped games to the University of Northern Iowa Jan. 31 and Drake University Feb. 2 by a combined 48 points.
Following the loss to Valparaiso, Loyola head coach Kate Achter said her squad needed to “grow up” and called out her team’s effort and free throw shooting. After the win against the Indiana State, Achter immediately addressed the comments she made.
“The things I said were not reflective of how much I care about our players and the strides that we’ve made within our program,” Achter said.
Junior forward Abby O’Connor said the team has tried to refocus and get more energized. O’Connor — Loyola’s leading scorer — said the team “started from scratch” this past week during practice in preparation for the second half of conference play.
After blowing a 13-point fourth quarter lead against Valparaiso, Achter said Loyola played much better late in the game against Indiana State.
“When it got tough down the stretch, I reminded our kids that were playing to win as opposed to [playing] not to lose,” Achter said. “That is the difference between what you saw at Valparaiso and what you saw tonight.”
The Sycamores jumped out to a 20-11 lead early in the second quarter, but Loyola weathered the storm and managed to take a 33-32 lead into halftime.
O’Connor said the Ramblers weren’t defending well enough to start the game, but the team improved and success followed.
“I think a lot of [our success] started on the defensive end,” O’Connor said. “We know that our defense leads to our offense, and we weren’t getting stops.”
The Ramblers defense was night-and-day better in the second half. As a team, Indiana State shot just 30.3 percent from the field in the second half after connecting on 53.8 percent of its shots in the first two quarters.
Loyola outscored the Sycamores a combined 32-23 between the third and fourth quarters to finish with a 10-point victory.
The Ramblers emerged victorious despite turning the ball over 21 times compared to Indiana State’s 15 turnovers. Loyola’s senior guard Tiara Wallace has the most turnovers with seven. Wallace stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 13 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing six assists.
O’Connor also scored 13 points in the victory after being held scoreless in five of her last six games. Before that, she reached double figures in 13 of the first 14 games.
After the game, Meyer said her role on the team is to be the “X-factor” and bring energy and hustle plays. Her 14 points matched her career-high, and she also grabbed three boards and snatched three steals.
“I’m just focused on my effort, and my teammates did a great job of finding me tonight,” Meyer said. “I was confident taking every shot that I took, and that came from being ready from the jump.”
Meyer earned the starting nod in place of sophomore forward Allison Day. This was the first game that Day didn’t start for Loyola this season, and she only played four minutes against the Sycamores. Achter said playing time is largely determined by a player’s energy and effort.
“There were other players that earned more minutes tonight than Allison,” Achter said. “And we’ve stayed consistent with that over the course of my four years here. … If you make positive contributions, you get minutes. And tonight Alexis and Kat [Nolan] got a lot of minutes.”
Indiana State falls to 3-19 on the year and 1-9 in conference play. The Sycamores currently sit in ninth place out of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). Loyola dropped to seventh in the standings following the three road losses.
While the two teams are close in the MVC standings, the rating percentage index (RPI) — a system that ranks all 351 Division I teams based on wins, loses and strength of schedule — has a big gap between the two conference foes. Loyola is ranked No. 117, while the Sycamores are No. 279, according to RPI.
Next, Loyola is scheduled to play the University of Evansville Feb. 8 at Gentile Arena. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. on ESPN3.