The Ramblers were led by third-year guard Des Watson, who transferred to Loyola from Davidson, with 18 points.
Ramblers Keep Rolling in the A-10 Defeating Davidson 76-63
The Loyola men’s basketball team rode hot second-half shooting to a 76-63 victory over Davidson College as they improve to 7-2 in Atlantic 10 play.
Third-year guard Des Watson was the top performer for Loyola, making a statement against his former team with 18 points and six assists. Graduate guard Braden Norris made an impact with strong 3-point shooting finishing with 14 points and graduate forward Dame Adelekun turned in another strong performance with 12 points.
Second-year forward Reed Bailey and fourth-year guard Grant Huffman led the way for the Wildcats, each scoring 23 points while the rest of Davidson’s roster couldn’t break double digits.
The Ramblers entered play 14-7 and 6-2 in league play fresh off a dominant 77-62 win over Saint Louis University Jan. 30. Davidson entered Gentile Arena at 12-8 overall and 2-5 against A-10 competition.
Fourth-year forward Philip Alston broke through after both teams struggled to score on their initial possessions and found a lane to the hoop where he finished with a reverse layup to score the game’s first points.
Fourth-year Davidson guard Connor Kochera got a 3-pointer to fall, but the scoring was sparse in the first few minutes. Adelekun got things going with four quick points inside before second-year guard Jalen Quinn and graduate guard Greg Dolan both hit 3-pointers to give Loyola a 13-6 advantage.
The Wildcats responded with a 7-2 run kicked off with a 3-pointer by redshirt second-year guard Angelo Brizzi. Huffman tied it at 13 when he banked in a floater in the paint. The lead changed hands five times over the next four minutes as Bailey kept Davidson in it with a 3-pointer and a teardrop floater while Watson and Norris both connected on deep threes.
Fourth-year guard Sheldon Edwards created separation with a 3-pointer in the corner then Alston finished a reverse layup through traffic to give the Ramblers a 28-22 cushion. Bailey came right back and converted an and-one, halting some of the Loyola momentum.
Edwards drained another three in the corner but Bailey responded with a tough shot driving through the paint. Kochera made two free throws cutting the Rambler lead to just two at 31-29. Just before the end of half, Norris found himself wide open from beyond the arc and took advantage, giving Loyola a 34-29 advantage going into the locker rooms.
Huffman started the second half strong for the Wildcats after collecting a blocked Alston shot and taking it coast-to-coast for an open dunk. Watson took over after a quiet first half and connected on two 3-pointers, propelling the Ramblers to a 42-36 lead.
Watson said it felt great to play at such a high level against his former team. He transferred to Loyola from Davidson in the offseason, citing differences in team cultures as the driving reason.
“In the first half, you could tell emotions and the tension were a little high but we just had to settle in and just trust our guys, trust our system, trust our coaching staff, and success would be the end result,” he said.
Bailey and Huffman worked hard to keep the Wildcats competitive as Watson drained another three and Quinn reached the rim with a spin move, increasing the Loyola advantage to 47-38.
Bailey arced a driving layup just over the reach of first-year center Miles Rubin to get two back before Norris hit another three to make it 50-40. Quinn scored inside through contact then Adelekun got a second-chance putback to fall as the Ramblers gained their largest lead of the game at 54-41.
Huffman finished a driving layup and Watson made a 3-pointer maintaining a 59-47 lead. Bailey cut the Wildcat deficit to 10 with a pull-up midranger, then Watson and Huffman traded successful trips to the line.
Norris made a three in the corner to make it 64-51 with just under four minutes to play. Huffman and Bailey wouldn’t go away as Bailey drained a three and Huffman knocked in two driving layups to cut the Wildcat deficit to 69-58.
Quinn and Adelekun put the bow on the Rambler victory after Quinn threw an alley-oop for Adelekun who finished it strong with two hands bringing a packed Gentile Arena to its feet. Huffman cut the celebration short as he stormed down the floor and launched a 3-pointer making it 71-61.
Each team managed a few more buckets in the waning minutes as Loyola closed out its seventh conference victory.
Loyola’s ball movement was put on display again as they finished with 21 assists to Davidson’s eight and continued their reign as A-10’s top team in assists. The Ramblers had a slight edge in rebounds with 35 to the Wildcats 33 while giving up 12 turnovers to the Wildcats’ nine. Superior shooting helped lift the Ramblers as they shot 46% from the floor and 50% from three while Davidson mustered just 39% from the field and 26% from beyond the arc.
Loyola head coach Drew Valentine said after the game he knew it was going to be a tough emotional game, as the two teams knew each other well from last season and Watson was coming up against his old teammates.
“We wanted our discipline to be more than our desire, and we wanted our detail to be greater than our emotion,” Valentine said. “So we knew that there was going to be a strong want to win, we knew that there was going to be a lot of emotions in this game.”
Next up the Ramblers are on the road taking on George Mason University Wednesday, Feb. 7. First-tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. and fans can catch the game on ESPN+ and Rambler Sports Network radio.
Featured image by Aidan Cahill | The Loyola Phoenix