Sports Columns

Column: An Analysis of Loyola’s ‘Secret’ Scrimmage with Wisconsin

Zack Miller | The PhoenixGraduate guard Lucas Williamson returns to the Loyola men's basketball team this fall, taking his extra year of eligibility from the NCAA.

The rumor mill has been running hot since news broke that the Loyola men’s basketball team — allegedly — beat the University of Wisconsin-Madison during a secret scrimmage match up 71-56.

The numbers in this piece are pulled from various reports on Twitter and podcasts, so take the statistics with a grain (or mountain) of salt. Here’s my breakdown of what we supposedly know.

Graduate guard Lucas Williamson put up 16 points and four steals — which is fantastic even if he was expected to do well. Another high scorer we know of is sophomore center Jacob Hutson, who put up 12 points while playing double digit minutes and starting. 

In a press conference following the release of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) preseason poll — in which the Ramblers were slated to take second in the MVC — Loyola head coach Drew Valentine said one of his focuses in the offseason was to increase Hutson’s endurance (since he made it abundantly clear he could play well during last year’s Sweet Sixteen run). 

With junior forward Tate Hall and recent-transfer senior forward Chris Knight both able to step in for “big man minutes” (as Podcast63 affectionately named it), it seems as if Loyola has a plan to fill the void left by Cameron Krutwig.

On the note of endurance, the team’s durability may be the most important takeaway from the game. Depth is what helped carry the team last year, and seeing as nine players played double digit minutes in this scrimmage, the Ramblers are in a solid position to outpace most competitors who have to rely on a small number of heavy hitters.

Getting back to individuals, junior guard Marquise Kennedy played a successful game overall, recording eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. Like Williamson, a box score like this is great to see despite the expectations set by his impressive performances the last two years.

While Knight got some solid minutes in the game, it’s unfortunate some of Loyola’s other transfers and new recruits didn’t get much time on the court. Senior forward Ryan Schweiger didn’t see any action due to illness and first-year forward Saint Thomas played just about four minutes total.

It will be interesting to see how Schwieger does in conference play, as he averaged 10.7 points per game and shot nearly 46% in his 2019-20 season at Princeton, meaning he can only add to Loyola’s deep bench.

Now it would be irresponsible not to add that Wisconsin is a very young team that was playing without first-year point guard Chucky Hepburn, who is slated to be a big contributor

I know fans want revenge from last year’s non-conference loss, but with three Wisconsin transfers going to Valparaiso and most of the Badgers having just one year of experience, the comparison can’t really be made. 

That said, Wisconsin sophomore guard Jonathan Davis — who played in all 31 games last year — only landed four of 14 baskets, netting just 13 points. I believe this says more about Loyola’s defense than him as a player, seeing as his shooting average last year was just over 44% and Wisconsin was kept to 33% completion from the field as a team.

Overall, this was a good display for Loyola and not a bad one for Wisconsin either. Wisconsin did well considering they were playing against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. Loyola’s power players (mostly) put up the numbers expected of them along with some exciting progress updates from players like Hutson and Knight — all against a Big 10 team.

The Ramblers start their season with a Nov. 3 exhibition in Gentile Arena against University of Wisconsin-Stout, and tip off is set for 7 p.m.

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