Men's Basketball

Five Out of Five: Loyola Posts Dominant Performance Over Evansville to Remain Undefeated in the MVC

Zack Miller | The PhoenixThe Loyola men's basketball team defeated the University of Evansville as its bench scored a total of 35 points.

The Loyola men’s basketball team (14-2, 5-0) recorded their season best shooting percentage from three-point territory with 58.8 percent as they defeated the University of Evansville 77-48 Jan. 18. Its victory by a margin of 29 points marked Loyola’s tenth straight victory, leaving it atop the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) as the only team that remains undefeated.

Coming into the game, Loyola looked to extend its nine-game winning streak. On the other side of the court, Evansville would try to earn its first win in the MVC, holding a conference record of 0-4.

The Purple Aces came into the game hot with back-to-back threes off the hands of Preston Phillips and Jawaun Newton in their first two possessions of the game. They were able to keep the momentum going, holding on to the lead for the first seven minutes of the game.

With 12:41 to go in the first half, a free throw by graduate forward Tate Hall tied the game for the first time at 13. Evansville responded quickly with a layup, but junior guard Marquise Kennedy struck back with a layup on a foul, subsequently scoring the and one. The Ramblers took their first lead of the game with a score of 16-15.

Loyola would continue to extend its lead to six points after a blazing 13-2 run. After missing all of their last five three-point attempts, Evansville snapped from its scoring drought with a three pointer from Evan Kuhlman, eventually propelling the Purple Aces to tie the game for the last time at 22.

A dunk by graduate forward Aher Uguak assisted by graduate guard Lucas Williamson would then put Loyola up by two as the scoreboard read 24-22 — a lead the Ramblers would not surrender for the remainder of the game.

In the last six minutes of the first half, Loyola’s offense scored eight more points while it defense held the Purple Aces to a mere two, sending the game into halftime with a score of 30-24.

Heading into the second half, Loyola led Evansville in points, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage. They also led in turnovers with seven, on which Evansville capitalized for 10 points. Loyola’s roster depth, however, countered its turnover problems, as its bench outscored that of the Purple Aces 10-0.

Loyola opened the second period with an alley-oop dunk by sophomore center Jacob Hutson off an assist by Kennedy. Halftime served the Ramblers well, as they appeared to adjust for a better second half. Loyola’s defense was on lockdown, holding the Aces to seven points in the first eight minutes while the offense scored 24 points, also refusing to turn the ball over until the ninth minute of the half.

With a little under seven minutes to go in the match, a steal from redshirt junior guard Braden Norris set up Williamson for his fifth and final three-pointer of the night, making him the highest scorer in the game with 15 points.

The Ramblers continued to dominate throughout the remainder of the contest, outscoring the Purple Aces 47-24 in the second half bringing the game to a close with a score of 77-28.

Loyola head coach Drew Valentine said he has high praise for his team’s work ethic on shooting and decision making, as they ended the game shooting 58.8% from three-point territory — a team season high.

“If we go through a slump or two, a game or two where we’re not making as many threes, where our percentage isn’t high, my confidence does not waver because of their work ethic and because of their character,” Valentine said. “I think that shined through tonight and I think we played some unselfish basketball, guys stepped up and made shots as well.”

Loyola also showcased its depth, as its bench outscored that of the Purple Aces 35-6, led by senior forward Chris Knight’s 12 points, and graduate guard Keith Clemons’ eight points — drawing the attention of Valentine as well.

“It was really fun to see Keith Clemons get in there and kind of look like his old self again,” Valentine said. “I know where his heart is at, I know what he can do in big moments… also Chris Knight. He’s starting to be really consistent with his motor and I think you’re seeing success out there on the court because of the multiple efforts that he’s making on both sides of the court.”

Up next, Loyola is set to host Missouri State University at Gentile Arena Jan. 22 as it looks to stay undefeated in their sixth game of MVC play. The game is scheduled for 2:30 pm and is set to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

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