Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Loyola-Chicago 80, Valparaiso 71: Ramblers roll on as regular season play winds down

Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers have proven to be elite in Missouri Valley conference play this season. While the Elite Eight games do not commence until late March, the Ramblers (22-5, 12-3 Missouri Valley) won their eighth straight game overall in an 80-71 win over the Valparaiso Crusaders (13-15, 4-11 Missouri Valley) at Gentile Arena on Wednesday night.

The story of Loyola’s season has been its ability for any player to step up on offense at a moment’s notice and Donte Ingram starred late in regulation with eight straight points over a 2:12 stretch, which highlighted a 16-point performance despite missing six of his first seven field goal attempts.

“In the beginning of the game, I had all of the looks I normally get, but it didn’t fall,” Ingram said. “You have to have amnesia and forget about it because I know eventually my shot would begin to fall at some point.”

Clayton Custer (20 points) and Cameron Krutwig (18 points) continued to be the ultimate inside-outside combination on offense for Loyola as it gave Valparaiso’s defense fits for the majority of the game.

Loyola minimized its errors with six turnovers and forced Valparaiso into several shot clock violations in the first half.

“I thought our ball-screen coverage by our big men was much better in the first half than it was in the second half,” Ramblers coach Porter Moser said. “(Valparaiso) kept dragging and hitting [Jaume] Sorolla for the roll. Our ball-screen was coverage was way too low and that is a credit to them.”

Four Valparaiso players finished in double figures in defeat, highlighted by Tevvon Walker’s 18 points, on 5-of-15 from the field.

Things started out slow for the Ramblers as they brushed off the slush similar to the melting snow outdoors as Krutwig scored the first points of the game at the 17:13 mark as they started out with a 7-1 lead.

The Crusaders responded with a 10-2 run of their own as free-throw makes carried the majority of the load on offense. When things have gotten thin this season, Loyola’s go-to option has been Krutwig and did not disappoint as he scored six points to highlight a Rambler 11-2 run as they went ahead 22-14 with 5:53 left in the first half.

Both teams endured hardship towards the last portion of the opening half as Loyola went 3:35 scoreless, while Valpo missed nine of 10 shots as it led 28-21 after 20 minutes.

As Loyola appeared to be on its way to coasting to another double-digit win, Valparaiso had other plans as it started the half on a 7-0 run and tied the game.

The Crusaders kept the deficit within single digits, but were dealt a big blow with 4:24 left as Jaume Sorolla fouled out (12 points and five rebounds) and would not recover as the Ramblers pulled away in the last minute behind 11 out of their last 12 field goal conversions on their way to a nine-point win.

“We continue to do a good job moving the ball and we probably could have done a better job of that tonight,” Custer said. “Down the stretch, we continued to trust each other and make the extra pass.”

Looking Ahead:

The Crusaders host the Bradley Braves on Feb. 17, while the Ramblers look to get one step closer towards their first ever MVC regular season title as they go on to the road to face the Evansville Aces on Feb. 18.

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