After giving up an 18-0 run in the second half, the Loyola men’s basketball team (7-3, 2-1) suffered its first conference loss of the season 76-71 at Indiana State University Jan. 10. The Ramblers had an eight-point lead with 8:24 left in the game but were unable to score a point for nearly seven minutes as Indiana State took control of the game.
Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing mentioned being disruptive on the defensive end and limiting second half turnovers as being keys to the Sycamores’ turnaround. Loyola head coach Porter Moser said his squad got “out-toughed” by Indiana State.
“I thought we were pretty bad for a long stretch of that game,” Lansing said. “We had nine turnovers in the first half. It’s hard to score when you’re turning it over like that.
The loss comes despite a career-high scoring output from sophomore forward Tom Welch. The Naperville native scored 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting off the bench. Loyola’s bench accounted for 39 of its 71 points. This was the first game this season in which more than half of Loyola’s scoring came from non-starters.
“[Welch] was the only post player that wanted to match [Indiana State’s] toughness,” Moser said.
Indiana State’s junior guard Cooper Neese scored the first seven points of the game to put the Ramblers in an early hole. However, Loyola weathered the storm from the Sycamores and took a 35-27 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Loyola held the lead until Indiana State took a 57-56 lead with 4:15 remaining — the Sycamores’ first lead since being up 11-9 about six minutes into the game. This was part of the 18-0 run for the Sycamores. Indiana State converted its free throws down the stretch to fend off Loyola for its first Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) win. The Sycamores outscored the Ramblers 49-36 in the second half.
Neese finished with 12 points, while senior guard Tyreke Key scored 31 points for the Sycamores on 8-for-12 shooting and 12-for-14 from the free throw line. Key was named to last season’s All-MVC First Team.
“We kind of came off to a slow start in the first half, so I knew I needed to be the aggressor, especially in the second half,” Key said. “I got going a little bit, and I just tried doing anything I could to get us that first Valley win.”
At various points throughout the game, Indiana State implemented a full-court press. Pressing is a defensive strategy that applies increased pressure that expands over the entire court. It can force teams to make mistakes like turning the ball over, but can also put the pressing team at risk of allowing easy shots.
In Indiana State’s case, the press worked. While trying to break the Sycamores’ press, Loyola piled up six turnovers in the span of just over three minutes late in the second half as the Sycamores went on their run and the Ramblers went cold offensively.
“[The Sycamores] were always very aggressive, first and second half,” Moser said. “We just got real passive. … Pressing teams feed off of it when they see you passive.”
Senior center Cameron Krutwig scored 11 points for the Ramblers. Senior guard Lucas Williamson was the third Rambler to score in double figures, recording 10 points — all of which came in the second half.
After the game, Lansing said despite what the box score showed, he didn’t feel like his team was able to fully limit Krutwig.
“I don’t think we contained [Krutwig],” Lansing said. “The stats sound that way, but I certainly didn’t feel that way because I felt they got about anything they wanted in the paint and that’s gotta change.”
Coming into the game, the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ranked Loyola as the second-best team in the MVC, trailing undefeated Drake. The NET is a metric used to estimate the strength of each team and is part of the process used to determine at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Through Jan. 9, the Ramblers are No. 65 out of 345 teams while the Sycamores come in at No. 164 in the NET.
In the MVC preseason poll, Indiana State was chosen to finish fourth out of 10 teams while Loyola was tabbed to come in second.
The series between the Ramblers and Sycamores came together Jan. 8. Loyola was originally set to play Drake University Jan. 10-11. Indiana State was originally scheduled to play Southern Illinois University Jan. 9-10. However, positive COVID-19 tests in Drake and Southern Illinois’ programs led to the MVC shifting its scheduling and pairing Loyola and Indiana State at the last minute.
Loyola and Indiana State are scheduled to square off again Jan. 11 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.