The Loyola men’s basketball team’s (16-3, 11-1) defense suffocated University of Evansville in a 68-55 loss at Gentile Arena Feb. 6. Senior center Cameron Krutwig’s 20 points and 11 rebounds led the Ramblers to victory over the third place Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) team.
Off to its best start through 18 games since the 1956-66 season, the Ramblers increased their winning streak to nine games. Krutwig and senior guard Keith Clemons added double-digit points to secure the win for the Ramblers.
The first half started out slow, with neither team breaking double digit scoring until 7:40 into the game. Evansville held out a narrow lead while the Ramblers struggled with shooting, going 13-for-15 throughout the first half.
The game tied twice and the lead changed three times in the first half alone. It wasn’t until Loyola senior guard Keith Clemons made a momentum-changing three-pointer that the Ramblers took the lead for the remainder of the half.
In the first half, a suffocating Loyola defense forced 10 Evansville turnovers — three of which were shot clock violations — allowing Loyola to translate those mistakes into 12 points. Meanwhile, Loyola only committed two turnovers.
Starting at the 4:29 mark in the first half Krutwig led Loyola on a 10-0 run. They headed into halftime up by nine points.
Loyola struggled to contain Evansville’s three-point shooting throughout the second half. The Purple Aces not only took 25 three-point shots, but connected with 11 of them — making up more than half of their points.
“They’re hard to guard,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “They make shots. Every guy on the floor can shoot. It really spreads you out. Kruwtig spent the whole game on the perimeter defending.”
Evansville senior guard Noah Frederking led the Purple Aces with 15 points on 60 percent shooting. He also added three three-pointers.
With a 13-2 run ending at 11:19, Loyola didn’t miss a shot for almost nine minutes to start the second half. The shooting success continued, until Cameron Kruwtig missed a lay-up, ending the 100 percent shooting percentage.
With 13:40 left in the game, Clemons had another energy boost and stole the ball from Evansville junior guard Shamar Givance. Then, completely unguarded, made an easy lay up to extend Loyola’s lead to 13 points.
“Those moments are big,” Clemons said. “That’s something we [saw] through scouting. Our defense, we do a really good job. That was a play I remembered through scouting, so it just gave me the upper edge.”
Suffering from shot clock violations and scoring droughts, Evansville couldn’t seem to get close enough to Loyola to pull ahead. The smallest gap between the two teams in the final 20 minutes was nine points.
Despite holding the Ramblers to 55 percent shooting, Evansville couldn’t connect on its own shots, going 22-for-48. Purple Aces’ head coach Todd Lickliter said they could have come back in the second half, but couldn’t seem to find a stride.
“We couldn’t get stops with them in the second half,” Lickliter said. “Physically, they were really powerful around the basket. You have to play well. They’re not going to beat themselves.”
The Purple Aces also only had one chance at a free throw. Loyola went 10-for-13 from the charity stripe, but the Ramblers played a clean game limiting their personal fouls to just 12 compared to Evansville’s 16.
Frederking threw up a layup, drew a foul and found himself on the free throw line, but missed the shot.
“We really emphasize playing hard without fouling,” Moser said. “They were in the bonus for the last five-to-six minutes. We were really talking in the huddles, ‘Don’t do a silly foul,’ because they can shoot free throws.”
Loyola’s defense was stifling, causing Evansville to commit 20 total turnovers, earning 19 points off the transition. They also stole the ball eight times.
Frederking — who had zero turnovers for Evansville — said that’s ultimately what caused the teams loss.
“They have a unique defense in the way they rotate and take away lanes,” Frederking said. “It’s difficult to play against and it showed tonight. We just weren’t getting as many shots as we should because we were turning the ball over so much.”
Coming into the game, Evansville had only won one of its true road games this season. The Purple Aces sat right behind Loyola in MVC standings at third place due to its 6-4 conference record. Last year, Evansville didn’t win a single game in the MVC and they’ve lost 19 of its last 21 road games.
The two teams will face off in the second game of the series Feb. 7 at 1 p.m. The game is scheduled to be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago.