The Loyola women’s basketball team (9-6, 7-4) moved into third place in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) after sweeping its two-game series against the University of Evansville Feb. 12-13.
The Ramblers won over the Purple Aces 67-49 Feb. 12 and followed that up with a 61-31 victory Feb. 13.
Heading into the series
Loyola entered the two-game series ranked No. 148 out of 343 total teams by the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). Meanwhile, the Purple Aces were ranked No. 306.
The Ramblers had won five of their last six games before dropping a pair of games to Drake Feb. 5-6. Evansville (5-11, 1-10) came into the weekend series fresh off its first MVC win of the season against Indiana State University Jan. 27 but had been battling COVID-19 within its program in the weeks following that win over the Sycamores.
“We basically had 24 hours to prepare for this game in person, on the court,” Evansville head coach Matt Ruffing said. “Throughout the week, we had to do everything on Zoom.”
After the two wins over the Purple Aces, the Ramblers have now won the last nine games against Evansville. Loyola leads the all-time series between the two schools 12-5. Loyola also improves to 5-0 when holding opponents under 50 points this season.
Feb. 12 Matchup
As Loyola senior guard Ellie Rice notched her third career double-double, Loyola blew past Evansville 67-49 on the road Feb. 12. Rice finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Ramblers.
Coming off a career-high 26 points in a Feb. 6 loss to Drake University, Rice maintained her hot streak against Evansville. Rice scored 10 points in the first quarter alone as Loyola jumped out to an 18-10 lead at the end of the period.
The Ramblers’ defense shut down the Purple Aces in the second quarter, holding Evansville to seven points as Loyola took a 33-17 lead into half. Evansville’s 17 points is the fewest allowed in the first half by Loyola this season.
The Ramblers committed only two turnovers in the first half, compared to Evansville’s nine.
“[In the] first half, we weren’t really seeing the ball go in as much as we would’ve liked to,” Evansville senior forward Jada Poland said. “When we saw the ball go in, it got our momentum going even though we were gassed. … We saw that our shooting wasn’t as good so we basically needed to attack in the paint.”
Loyola extended its lead to 25 points — the largest of the game — with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter. The Ramblers outscored the Purple Aces 20-15 in the third period.
Evansville scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, while Loyola managed 14.
Overall, Loyola attempted 20 more shots than Evansville. The Ramblers went 26-for-68 while the Purple Aces shot 16-for-48. Loyola was able to get an advantage in shots in large part due to winning the rebounding battle. The Ramblers grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, while Evansville corralled just seven.
“We’ve just got to rebound the basketball,” Ruffing said. “I talked to [my team] after the game and said that if you give your opponents 20 more shots, that’s going to be a tough task to pull off a win.”
First-year forward Sitori Tanin scored 13 points for the Ramblers, while sophomore guard Sam Galanopoulos chipped in 10 points.
Sophomore forward Abby Feit was the only player to reach double figures in the scoring column for Evansville, finishing with 14 points to go along with nine rebounds. Poland finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
Feb. 13 Matchup
The Ramblers followed up the 18-point win with an even more dominant performance. Loyola handed the Purple Aces a 61-31 loss — the fewest points allowed by Loyola this season. After being held to single digits for six straight games, Loyola junior forward Allison Day led the Ramblers with 16 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field.
For the second night in a row, the Ramblers came out of the gates hot. This time, Loyola outscored Evansville 18-4 in the first quarter. Evansville wouldn’t be able to cut the deficit to single digits at any point during the remainder of the game.
The Purple Aces were able to keep pace with Loyola in the second quarter, with Loyola outscoring them 10-9 in the period. This gave the Ramblers a 28-13 edge at halftime.
Loyola sealed the game in the third quarter, dominating Evansville 24-8 in those 10 minutes. The Ramblers rattled off a 16-0 run as their lead ballooned to 31 points with 3:29 remaining in the period. They entered the final quarter with a 52-21 lead.
Loyola’s largest lead of the night came early in the fourth quarter when the Ramblers led by 35 points with 7:09 left to play. The Ramblers were up by at least 30 points for the entirety of the final quarter en route to winning 61-31.
After the 30-point drubbing by Loyola, Evansville elected not to have a postgame press conference.
First-years Tanin and Maya Chandler joined Day as double-digit scorers for Loyola. Tanin, a 6-foot-2 forward, added 11 points off the bench. Chandler, a 5-foot-7 guard, chipped in 10 points.
No player reached double figures for Evansville, but Feit came the closest with nine points.
The Ramblers didn’t shoot especially well, going 35.5 percent from the field, but it was considerably better than Evansville’s 17.3 percent. Loyola managed 17 assists to Evansville’s four.
The Ramblers are scheduled to play the University of Northern Iowa on the road Feb. 19-20. Tip-off for the Feb. 19 matchup is set for at 6 p.m. on ESPN3.