Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Loyola-Chicago 79, Southern Illinois 65: Ramblers win fourth straight in MVC play

Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— On a chilly, winter evening on the north side of Chicago, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (15-4, 5-2 Missouri Valley Conference) warmed things up indoors in a 79-65 win over the Southern Illinois Salukis (11-9, 3-4 Missouri Valley Conference) for their fourth straight win in league play, which is the longest since the 2006-07 season (six in a row as Horizon League members).

For most teams, a four-game winning streak would be the norm, but for Loyola, the streak serves as another step in building a culture.

“Southern Illinois has been a huge thorn in our side as they have had a lot success against us,” Ramblers coach Porter Moser said. “Our focus wasn’t about where we are going right now, but is strictly about putting this one in the bank and show up next game.”

Cameron Krutwig followed up a 21-point outing at Bradley on Jan. 13 with 18 points and nine rebounds, highlighted by an early six-point outburst, which contributed to Loyola’s 19-6 start.

“Both games, I came out hot to start and kept going throughout the game,” Krutwig said. “Most of my buckets were off great passes from my teammates and I was in my spots at the right times.”

The Ramblers have leaned on multiple options to carry the load on offense all season and Donte Ingram played the role of big man on campus for the Ramblers with a season-high 25 points, on 7-of-12 from the field.

“I came out aggressive and we have so many guys that can do different things, so everyone comes out knowing it won’t be one particular guy every night that stands out,” Ingram said. “We always have a core group of guys that will come out and play hard and give energy.”

SIU’s Armon Fletcher came into the contest with a team-high 14.6 points per game, highlighted by a 32-point outburst at Valparaiso on Jan. 6, but foul trouble saddled any plans for a similar performance. Fletcher played 37 minutes, despite playing with four fouls, but could not get into a rhythm as he finished with 10 points.

Moser emphasized better ball handling as Loyola committed 20 turnovers, compared to the 11 against Bradley.

“We have been a low turnover team all season, so 20 [turnovers] was alarming and that was the first stat that I saw,” Moser said. “I knew going in that the numbers would be high and you got to credit Southern Illinois for how physical they played and we have to get tougher with the ball. Each night will be a grind and for sure I will address those turnovers in practice.”

14 of the Ramblers’ first 19 points came in the paint with a combo of post touches and fast break executions off the Saluki turnovers. Loyola started hot from the field going 9-of-12 (75 percent) and appeared to cruise for the rest of the half.

The Salukis had other ideas as they countered with a 12-0 run to cut into the Ramblers’ lead at 19-18, which saw Moser call a timeout to try to put an end to the momentum.

Moser’s timeout paid off as Ben Richardson delivered a triple from the wing on Loyola’s next paly, which ignited a 12-1 run and stirred the home crowd into a frenzy.

The Salukis’ momentum all but disappeared as they went 5:51 without a field goal conversion. The Ramblers capitalized as their lead grew back to 35-23 at the half behind a wide-open layup by Clayton Custer off the precise assist from Richardson.

Consistency stayed on Krutwig’s end as he delivered the first Rambler points of the second half on a turnaround layup. Loyola kept its double-digit lead and coasted to back-to-back wins by double figures.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on Jan. 21 as the Ramblers go on the road to take on MVC newcomers, the Valparaiso Crusaders, while the Salukis hosts the Northern Iowa Panthers. Both games tip at 3 p.m. CT.

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