The Loyola men’s basketball team (8-2) powered past Roosevelt University 88-49 Dec. 7, getting its fourth win against a Chicago rival to finish the city sweep.
This is the first time Loyola faced a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) team this season, as the Cavaliers visited the Ramblers hot off a three-game winning streak. The Ramblers, however, held a 27 game winning streak at home and had won 15 straight games against non-NCAA opponents.
Loyola went into the game without two of their starters. Redshirt junior guard Braden Norris, and graduate forward Aher Uguak — two crucial players for the Ramblers — are averaging 10 and 8.2 points per game this season, respectively. Both out with non-COVID-19 related illnesses, were part of last season’s MVC title-winning team, defeating the midwest’s top seed Illinois University in the NCAA tournament.
As the game started, both teams were unable to score on their first possession. In the second minute of the game, sophomore center Jacob Hutson was able to put the Ramblers on the scoreboard first off an assist from graduate guard Lucas Williamson.
Roosevelt was quick to respond, as Justus Mouton was able to score on a layup to equalize the game at two in its next possession. That was the final tie in the game, as Loyola would continue to dominate the game, slowly widening its lead margin against the Cavaliers.
Loyola’s high-pressure defense suffocated Roosevelt. With eight minutes to go in the first half, graduate forward Tate Hall’s third steal of the game gave him his third assist of the game, passing the ball to first-year guard Ty Johnson to assist him on his first career bucket.
In a dominant first period for the Ramblers, senior forward Ryan Schwieger brought some excitement to close out the half. With 1.9 seconds left on the clock prior to the beginning of the play, Schwieger shot the ball at the buzzer, scoring a three-pointer to give Loyola a 44-22 lead over Roosevelt.
According to Loyola head coach Drew Valentine, the final play of the half was executed as designed, crediting Williamson for the pass as much as Schwieger for the shot.
“Lucas made a great pass because you know, those plays don’t happen if you can’t get the ball in the right way,” Valentine said. “We’ve got a couple different [plays] obviously late game, end of half plays … we got it to [Schwieger] and he made the shot.”
The Ramblers outperformed Roosevelt in most significant categories during the first half. Loyola doubled or bettered Roosevelt’s stats in points, assists, steals, points off the bench and shooting percentage from three-point territory. Roosevelt, on the other hand, had twice as many turnovers as Loyola with 10.
Both teams came into the second half playing more aggressively on offense. In the first eight minutes, both teams combined for a total of 12 three-point shot attempts. Out of those 12 attempts, Loyola managed to score three out of five, besting Roosevelt’s three out of seven.
By the time the shootout ended, Loyola had broadened their lead from 22 to 33 points, as the scoreboard read 64-31.
With five minutes left in the game, an alley-oop scored by guard Ty Johnson — delivery courtesy of forward Saint Thomas — made Gentile Arena explode as the first-years combined for a highlight play that Valentine described as “absolutely nasty.” Valentine said he was glad to see his freshmen out there and has a special praise for Thomas.
“I thought that Saint was really solid tonight,” Valentine said. “He missed a couple shots, but it didn’t affect how his energy and intensity and just how his vibe was out there on the floor. He remained confident no matter what … Saint Thomas earned trust from me tonight.”
The game ended with a score of 88-49 in favor of the Ramblers. Schwieger — team leader in scoring with 15 points — mentioned his appreciation towards the fans after exceeding 2,300 people in attendance in a game against a non-NCAA team.
“It’s kind of shocking to see the fans come out to, you know, a game that a lot of fans might not pay attention to for our schedule but it’s crazy,” Schwieger said. “It’s awesome to see how supportive the fans are and the students especially… it really is a special, special atmosphere.”
With its victory over Roosevelt, Loyola completed its series against Chicago city opponents. The Ramblers also defeated Chicago State University, University of Illinois Chicago, and Big East Conference member DePaul to complete their sweep against its city rivals.
Coming up for Loyola, the Ramblers travel to Nashville, Tennessee to take on Vanderbilt University Dec. 10. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. with the game set to be broadcast on SEC Network+.