The Loyola men’s basketball team (6-2,1-0) kicked off Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play by defeating Indiana State University 88-76 at Gentile Arena Dec. 1. This win extended the Ramblers’ at-home winning streak to 26 games.
The two teams entered the game with the series tied 17-17, but Loyola had captured nine of the last 12 contests. The Ramblers last met the Sycamores during the semifinal round of the 2021 MVC Tournament, which Loyola took 65-49.
Loyola was slated to finish second in the MVC for the second season in the MVC preseason poll, while Indiana State was selected to finish ninth out of the ten teams— dropping five places after being picked fourth for the 2020-2021 season.
Despite their place on the preseason poll, the Sycamores put in the work against the Ramblers, which Loyola head coach Drew Valentine spoke to after the game.
“We knew this was going to be a battle,” Valentine said. “[Indiana State] is a dynamic offensive team, so many different players that can all dribble, pass, shoot… we knew our depth and our experience in these league games was hopefully going to win.”
Indiana State also faced another roadblock with the absence of star player Tyreke Key, who was named to the All-MVC Preseason First Team. Key announced he would be sitting out the 2021-2022 season due to a shoulder injury Nov. 8.
The first half was a constant back and forth on the court, with the lead between Loyola and Indiana State changing four times and the score tying seven times. The Ramblers took a five-point lead early on, but they weren’t able to hold onto it.
Key’s absence wasn’t strongly felt as the Sycamores revved up their offense against Loyola, going on an 8-1 scoring spurt that put them on top for most of the period.
Just as it was looking like Loyola would head into the locker room behind Indiana State at the half, redshirt junior guard Braden Norris hit a three-point jumper with three seconds left on the clock to give Loyola the lead 39-38.
Both teams came out aggressive in the second half, racking up four team fouls apiece in the first four minutes of gameplay.
Personal fouls also plagued the teams, with both Uguak and Indiana State’s Simon Wilbar getting into foul trouble with sixteen minutes left in the half. Meanwhile, Indiana State’s Cameron Henry fouled out with eight minutes left.
Although the first ten minutes of the second half looked a lot like the first period, the pace shifted for the last ten minutes of gameplay. Indiana State continued to be aggressive, recording 15 fouls throughout the period, but Loyola was able to push forward offensively.
Loyola took an 11-point lead with less than four minutes on the clock thanks to a dunk from junior guard Marquise Kennedy. Indiana State tried to creep back up, but a three-point jumper from senior forward Ryan Schwieger with 49 seconds left sealed the deal for Loyola.
Graduate guard Lucas Williamson led the Ramblers with a season-high 20 points and chipped in five rebounds and three blocks. Meanwhile, Kennedy contributed 16 points and Norris recorded 3 assists.
Loyola is set to face off against Red Line rival DePaul University on the road Dec. 1, which Williamson said is a game that means a lot to him as a Chicago native.
“This is super exciting for me,” Williamson said. “I have a whole bunch of friends that have already hit me up saying, ‘Hey I’m going to be at the game, I’m going to be courtside.’ It’s an unbelievable opportunity.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m CT and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.