With the help of a season-high scoring output from senior guard Bre Hampton Bey, the Loyola women’s basketball team (6-4, 4-2) outlasted Southern Illinois University 53-46 at Gentile Arena Jan. 30. Hampton-Bey led the Ramblers with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field.
The Ramblers have now won four of their last five games — with three of those wins coming against teams picked to finish higher than Loyola in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) preseason poll. With the win over Southern Illinois, Loyola tied its best start to MVC play since joining the conference in 2013-14. Meanwhile, the Salukis’ (5-6, 2-4) losing streak extends to four games.
The Ramblers were picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll, but Loyola has exceeded expectations early in conference play. The Ramblers entered the game in fifth, while Southern Illinois sat at eighth. The Salukis were tabbed to finish sixth in the preseason poll.
“I think all wins feel good,” Loyola head coach Kate Achter said. “We honestly don’t even talk about ‘Oh, they were picked above us.’ We just focus on the matchup. What are we going to be able to do? And what are we going to be able to take away?”
In the first game against the Salukis, the Ramblers managed to limit Southern Illinois’ three-point shooting. The Salukis made a season-low three three-pointers on 13 attempts. Their 46 points was the team’s third-lowest total through 11 games this season.
Neither team started the game strong offensively. Despite turning the ball over eight times, Loyola managed a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter after holding Southern Illinois to 23.1 percent shooting. The Ramblers cut down on turnovers in the second period, only committing two on the way to taking a five-point lead into halftime.
The Ramblers held the Salukis to 33.3 percent shooting in the first half. Loyola’s defense didn’t let up after the break, with Southern Illinois shooting 30.8 percent in the third quarter. The Salukis got within two points with 1:26 remaining in the third quarter, but Loyola ended the period on a 5-0 run to take a seven-point lead in the final 10 minutes.
Southern Illinois’ shots began to fall in the fourth quarter, shooting 58.3 percent from the field. The Salukis tied the game 41-41 with 4:43 left to play, but Hampton-Bey put Loyola back in front by three after getting fouled on a layup and making the additional free throw. Loyola held the lead for the remainder of the game, going 9-for-11 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
“I was going with the flow, not forcing anything, just letting everything come to me,” Hampton-Bey said. “If I see a lane, I’m taking it and going up confidently. … I wasn’t very happy with my performance the last two games, so I was like ‘this is my game, I have to perform at a high level.’”
Hampton-Bey’s scoring outburst came after being held to an average of eight points in the Ramblers’ series against Bradley University Jan. 22-23. First-year guard Maya Chandler was the second Rambler to score in double figures against the Salukis, recording 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Chandler also had five turnovers in the game.
Although Loyola led for almost 34 minutes of the game, its lead never stretched to double digits.
Over the course of the game, Loyola forced Southern Illinois into four shot clock violations. After the game, Achter said forcing one shot clock violation in a game is good but forcing four is “unbelievable.”
“It’s so defeating to get a shot clock violation,” Achter said. “You get 30 seconds to find a good shot and if you move the basketball around [offensively], somebody should breakdown somewhere [defensively]. It really talks about how tight our team defense can be.”
The Salukis have a pair of double-digit scorers this season. Prior to the Loyola series, senior guard Makenzie Silvey led the team with 13.4 points per game, while senior forward Abby Brockmeyer averaged 12.5.
Loyola forced Silvey into turning the ball over five times and held her to seven points — her second-lowest scoring game of the year. However, Brockmeyer had the highest-scoring individual effort of the year for Southern Illinois, notching 28 points on 12-for-20 shooting.
Coming into the game, the Salukis had won seven of the last nine matchups between the two schools, including three of the last four.
The Salukis came into the series ranked No. 175 out of 343 teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). After knocking off a pair of higher-ranked opponents, Loyola has been rising up the NET rankings. At the time of publication, the Ramblers were No. 147 in the NET.
Before the Jan. 30 loss, the Salukis had won seven of the last nine matchups between the two schools, including three of the last four.
Heading into the next matchup against Southern Illinois Jan. 31, Hampton-Bey said the Ramblers need to maintain the same defensive intensity but have more poise on offense. On offense, she specifically mentioned the team needs to have more patience, look to find Loyola’s post players more and limit turnovers.
The Ramblers and Salukis face-off again Jan. 31 at Gentile Arena. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. on ESPN+.