The Loyola men’s basketball team (3-0) powered past Chicago State University Nov. 16 to start the season 3-0 for the second consecutive season. Loyola was again proven too much to handle offensively by Chicago State, ending the game with a score of 92-56.
This was the 12th meeting between the Ramblers and the Cougars since 1986, with Loyola holding the series record 11-1 over Chicago State and going 7-0 at home in Gentile Arena.
Chicago State was selected to finish 13th out of 13 teams in the Western Athletic Conference and started the season with only three returning players, along with twelve newcomers.
Both teams entered the matchup 2-0 for the season and both with first-year head coaches — Drew Valentine for Loyola and Gerald Gillion for Chicago State. Loyola was able to grab its second consecutive 3-0 start to a season, a record it has started four out of the past six seasons with.
Gentile continues to be one of the most challenging courts for contenders to visit, as Loyola maintains a 25-game home-court winning streak with Tuesday’s victory — the fifth-longest active streak in NCAA Division I competition.
Valentine said the energy in Gentile contributed to the team’s victory over the Cougars, reiterating the notion that Loyola has one of the best home atmospheres in the country.
“I’m completely blown away with the passion of our fanbase,” Valentine said. “[I’m] really excited for our guys to play in front of an electric student section. … It was good to see some guys who haven’t played at a higher level in some of the earlier games step up.”
Tuesday’s game wasn’t the immediate offensive battle Loyola had seen in its previous two appearances. The first half started off slower, with Loyola taking almost five minutes to reach double digits in scoring.
However, the Ramblers exploded later in the first half to end the period 46-22. Graduate forward Aher Uguak brought the energy to Gentile with back-to-back dunks within thirty seconds of each other.
The first half was full of turnovers, with Chicago State and Loyola turning the ball over seventeen and six times respectively.
The Ramblers were practically unstoppable in the second half, starting off strong with a three point jumper from Uguak. The momentum continued with four back-to-back three point jumpers coming from first-year forward Saint Thomas, senior forward Ryan Schwieger, graduate guard Tate Hall and redshirt junior guard Braden Norris.
Schwieger led the Ramblers in scoring, bringing in 22 points and three assists. Schwieger joined Loyola’s roster after transferring from Princeton University, where he averaged 10.7 points and three rebounds per game during the 2019-2020 season.
Because the Ivy League decided to withdraw from intercollegiate play for the 2020-2021 season, Schwieger said he’s readjusting to competing after a year off.
“It’s been weird doing the whole thing over again [after] losing so much time,” Schwieger said. “But I’m excited to be back and excited to be here and compete with these guys and the coaching staff.”
Other players scoring in double digits were Uguak with 14 points and sophomore center Jacob Hutson, who logged 15 points and two rebounds.
Loyola will next face off against University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) at home Nov. 20, before heading to the Bahamas to compete in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Nov. 24-26.
Valentine said the team has to stay energized to close out the homestand before switching focus to the competitors the team will meet in Atlantis.
“UIC is a really good team,” Valentine said. “They’re tough, they’ve got a good energy and a good culture over there. I think a lot of people are going to talk about, ‘One more game until the Bahamas,’ but the reason why we’ve been so successful is that we take it one game at a time.”
Tip-off against the Flames is set for 3 p.m. The game is slated to be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago.