For the second consecutive day, the Loyola men’s basketball team (15-3, 10-1) went into JQH Arena and beat Missouri State University by at least 20 points. Senior center Cameron Krutwig led the Ramblers with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in the 70-50 Feb. 1 victory.
The Ramblers faced off against the Bears on back-to-back days in the same location as part of the new scheduling format for the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to limit travel and potential exposure to COVID-19.
After the second game, Loyola head coach Porter Moser raved about Krutwig’s impact on both sides of the ball in the two wins over the Bears.
“I thought this was his best weekend of the year,” Moser said about Krutwig. “He was so good on both ends. It was his best defensive back-to-back games he’s had.”
Defensively, Krutwig helped limit Missouri State senior forward Gaige Prim to an average of three points in the two Rambler victories. Prim came into the series averaging 17.1 points per contest and hadn’t been held to single digits all year until facing Loyola.
Prim was also in foul trouble both games, picking up four fouls in the Jan. 31 game and fouling out Feb. 1. After the game, Moser said his team wasn’t doing anything specific to attack Prim but added Loyola’s offense flows through Krutwig and he’s “hard to guard.”
Missouri State head coach Dana Ford echoed Moser’s sentiments about how difficult Krutwig is to defend and added he thinks Loyola’s depth is key to its success.
“Krutwig’s a hard guard because he can pass, score, he handles the ball, he’s got such a high IQ,” Ford said. “And I think the most important thing that they have is there depth. They don’t miss a beat when they go to their bench.”
With the win, Loyola extends its winning streak to eight games and has now won 10 or more conference games in four consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
After jumping out to a 22-2 lead to start the game Jan. 31, the Ramblers once again came out of the gates strong. Loyola jumped out to an 11-0 lead to start the second game against the Bears.
Missouri State would cut its deficit to four points, trailing 20-16 with 9:24 remaining in the first half. However, that was the closest the Bears would get to Loyola for the rest of the game.
For the second day in a row, Loyola was up by double digits for the entirety of the second half.
Redshirt senior forward Aher Uguak and senior guard Lucas Williamson were the other Ramblers to reach double figures in the scoring column. Uguak finished with 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, while Williamson recorded 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting.
As a team, the Ramblers shot 60.5 percent from the field — their second-highest mark against a Division I opponent this season. Loyola connected on 62.3 percent of its shots Jan. 17 against the University of Northern Iowa.
Missouri State junior guard Demarcus Sharp led all scorers with 21 points for the Bears on 9-for-12 shooting. After being held to single digits for the first time this season Jan. 31, sophomore guard Isiaih Mosley came back to score 16 points for Missouri State Feb. 1.
With the Feb. 1 loss, Missouri State is on a four-game losing. In the span of less than a week, the Bears have been swept by Drake University and Loyola — the top two teams in the MVC standings. After the game, Sharp said it can be tough to overcome losses like those, but says he hopes Missouri State plays either the Bulldogs or Ramblers in the MVC Tournament.
“These losses are really driving us, like we’re real mad behind these losses,” Sharp said. “I feel like we will meet both of the teams [in the MVC Tournament]. Whichever team we meet I mean, we’re really going to play. I’m confident, I’m ready. We’re not losing anymore.”
The weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll was released Feb. 1. Loyola came in just outside the rankings at No. 28, while undefeated Drake University checked in at No. 25 — becoming the first Valley team to be ranked this season.
After the game, Moser said it was good for the MVC to have representatives in the rankings.
“I think it’s great for the league,” Moser said. “We want [multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament] and I think this is the year we can.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to host the University of Evansville in their next series Feb. 6-7 at Gentile Arena. Both games are set to tip-off at 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago.