Three Ramblers notched double-digit points as the Loyola men’s basketball team (19-5,10-3) soared past the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) 85-58 at Gentile Arena Feb. 13, extending their home winning streak against UNI to eight.
UNI came into the matchup with the No. 1 spot in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), while Loyola held No. 2, though the loss put Loyola half a game ahead of UNI. The Ramblers were also coming in off a loss to Bradley University Feb. 8.
The Ramblers played at breakneck speed, with three Loyola players tallying more than ten points in the Feb. 13 matchup — graduate guard Lucas Williamson led the team with 18, while Uguak and senior forward Chris Knight contributed 17 and 12 respectively.
“We’ve really been working on that the last two weeks,” Loyola head coach Drew Valentine said. “Our early offense, keeping the ball popping from one side of the floor to the other and our bigs where they need to go.”
Graduate forward Aher Uguak attributed the change in pace to certain players “stepping up” and exuding confidence in spite of the previous game. Of the 12 Ramblers who saw the court against UNI, 11 scored.
Within 18 seconds, Loyola put the first points on the board with a layup from Knight. UNI was quick to answer with a three-pointer from AJ Green, putting the score at 3-2 less than 30 seconds in.
However, the next basket for the Ramblers — a three-pointer from Williamson — gave Loyola a lead they would never let go.
Although UNI’s Austin Phyfe was able to tie the game at 13 with 15:11 left in the half, the Ramblers took back the advantage with a three-pointer from graduate forward Aher Uguak 14 seconds later. A 4.5-minute, 11-0 run for the Ramblers prevented the Panthers from regaining a lead for the rest of the half.
By the end of the first half, the Ramblers were shooting 64.3% from the field and 58.8% from three-point territory. The Ramblers were also able to score 12 points off UNI’s seven turnovers.
The second half would only cement the Ramblers’ lead throughout the 20 minutes of play. Knight kicked off a 9-0 scoring run for Loyola 37 seconds into the half, giving the Ramblers a 23-point lead.
Although the Panthers would eventually shorten the Ramblers’ lead to 13 points, they weren’t able to creep any closer. Loyola then took off on a 16-2 scoring run over 4:41 and was able to extend its lead to 27 points.
Loyola’s defense nearly shut out Green in the second half, keeping him to two points scored through free throws, which Valentine attributed to Uguak and Williamson’s defensive prowess.
“We wanted to make it difficult for him,” Valentine said. “I think the combination of [Uguak] and [Williamson], I think they made his work extremely hard.”
UNI attempted to catch up, but none of the visitors’ efforts were enough. Loyola secured the final victory with a score of 85-58.
The Ramblers finished the game shooting 64% overall and 52% from beyond the arc.
Loyola will face its next opponent when it travels to face Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana Feb. 18. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game is set to be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago+.