In the Loyola men’s basketball team’s first exhibition game in over two years, the Ramblers pulled off a dominating 93-41 win against University of Wisconsin-Stout. Redshirt junior guard Braden Norris led the game with 17 points while graduate guard Lucas Williamson brought in four steals.
Junior guard Marquise Kennedy joined Williamson, Norris, graduate forward Aher Uguak and sophomore center Jacob Hutson in the starting lineup. Kennedy filled in for graduate guard Keith Clemons, who is currently being evaluated for a potential injury, though is expected to be back next week, according to head coach Drew Valentine.
The team got off to a slow start, with Stout taking the lead for the first three minutes of the game. Valentine chalked it up to “jitters,” given it was Loyola’s first game in front of a home crowd since February 2020.
Despite this, the Ramblers quickly transitioned into a more explosive style of play. Williamson’s three-point jumper just under four minutes into the game sent the team into a frenzy, causing them to take the lead and never look back.
As expected, Loyola’s defensive capabilities shined on the court. The team totaled 16 steals and seven blocks, forcing Stout into 21 total turnovers. The Ramblers also held the Blue Devils to just 24% field goal completion and 25% three-point completion.
By the second half, Norris — and many of the other starters — took a backseat to bench players, specifically several of the team’s newest additions. First-year forward Saint Thomas tied with Uguak and Hutson to lead the team in rebounds, with each grabbing six.
Recent transfers and senior forwards Ryan Schwieger and Chris Knight both put in double-digit minutes, with Schwieger pulling in nine points and three assists while Knight nabbed a steal and two blocks.
“I think those guys, both Ryan and Chris, they’re going to have a big impact for our team this year,” Valentine said in a post-game press conference. “I think they showed a little bit tonight of what they can do.”
Senior forward Will Alcock also took the court to a roaring Gentile Arena crowd, and ended up sinking two free throws and grabbing two rebounds in the final minutes of the game.
The Ramblers also had a high pass volume. Kennedy led the team in assists, making five of their 24 total. Unfortunately for Loyola, this also translated into 15 turnovers, which Valentine also chalked up to “jitters.”
“I attribute a lot of it to just jitters and getting back to playing in front of people,” Valentine said. “As a team, we really shared the ball well. … The guys just gotta be in control of their emotions.”
The Ramblers will host Coppin State Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. for the season opener and the game is set to be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago+.