A little more than 10 months ago, Valparaiso University sent the Loyola men’s basketball team home from the 2020 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament. The No. 7-seeded Crusaders knocked off the No. 2-seeded Ramblers 74-73 in the quarterfinals March 6 on the way to a runner-up finish in the tournament.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser said it was “human nature” to have that loss in the back of his team’s mind coming into the first matchup against Valparaiso since the defeat.
The Jan. 20, 2021 matchup between the two schools saw a drastically different result with the Ramblers routing the Crusaders 75-39 at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
This loss marks the fewest points scored by Valparaiso in a home loss since Feb. 18, 1949 when the Crusaders lost to Loyola 62-38.
After the game, Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich cited youth and experience as reasons for his team’s drop-off but ultimately said there are no excuses.
“We gotta look ourselves in the mirror and face our reality,” Lottich said. “Our reality right now is that we’re not a very good team. … Everyone’s gotta be honest with themselves. I told our guys, ‘I’m not coaching well enough, I’ve gotta coach better.’”
The loss to the Ramblers is the first time Valparaiso has been held under 50 points this season. Loyola had the lead for nearly 36 of the 40 minutes.
This is the fourth Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) game Loyola has won by at least 30 points this season — no other team in the MVC has more than one such conference win.
After the game, Loyola head coach Porter Moser said Valparaiso’s constant movement on offense can be difficult to defend, but his team was able to contain the Crusaders due to Loyola’s urgency on defense.
“I think our guys did a good job of playing possession-by-possession,” Moser said. “We were able to keep guys fresh. We were rotating nine, 10 guys through to stay fresh to guard. … It’s grinding guarding all that [motion] for so long.”
Loyola rattled off an 18-2 run to end the first half, giving the Ramblers a 21-point lead heading into halftime. Loyola shot 55.6 percent from the field, significantly higher than Valparaiso’s 22.2 percent.
The Ramblers scored 24 of 37 first-half points in the paint. The second half was a similar story with the Ramblers adding 22 points in the paint, while Valparaiso had 22 for the entire game.
Loyola outscored the Crusaders 38-23 in the second half to secure the 36-point victory. Senior center Cameron Krutwig led Loyola with 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Two other Ramblers scored in double figures — senior guard Lucas Williamson and redshirt senior forward Tate Hall contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Loyola sophomore forward Tom Welch scored nine points and dished out a game-high six assists in 21 minutes off the bench. Krutwig is known for his high-level passing ability as a big man, tallying the third most assists of any player in the MVC last season. Moser said Welch has improved as a facilitator through “osmosis,” meaning he’s improved by being around a talented passer like Krutwig.
“You sit there and you play with [Krutwig] every day, and you see how he facilitates,” Moser said about Welch’s improvement. “Our guys do a nice job of cutting hard and Tommy can pass.”
Coming into the game, Loyola ranked No. 41 in the country in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET). The NET ranks all 347 Division I men’s basketball teams and is used to help determine at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Valparaiso was No. 271 in the NET rankings. Out of the 10 MVC teams, Loyola had the second-best NET ranking while the Crusaders had the second-worst.
The Ramblers will only have three days until they play a two-game series against Bradley in Peoria Jan. 24-25. The Jan. 24 game is set to tip-off at 3 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago.