Saturday, January 12, 2019

Green: Ramblers show grit in a 67-64 win over the Redbirds

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat- Getty Images

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

CHICAGO— On a blustery, snowy Saturday afternoon outdoors, the indoors provided warmth as the Loyola Chicago Ramblers escaped by the skin of their teeth in a 67-64 win over the Illinois State Redbirds.

Loyola’s offense went stone cold in the final 6:16 as it could not buy a basket, but got a break as Illinois State endured similar struggles.

“We practice those situations all the time in four-minute segments,” Ramblers guard Marques Townes said. “We know how to be patient and know when to get stops. We got a couple of stops there at the end, which was key to preserving the win.”

The Ramblers were able to get to the foul line and made their final six free throws, which made the difference in the outcome.

“I was proud of our guys on how we stayed with it despite missing two free throws and came back and hit the last six,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “You got to make free throws and get a stop, which we did on the final possession."

The Redbirds played catch up from the early stages of the game and tied the game at 61 with 3:37 left on Matt Chastain’s dunk off a missed Phil Fayne layup.

The Ramblers’ struggles on offense gave the Redbirds one last chance in the final 12 seconds down 67-64, but Zach Copeland faced tons of perimeter pressure and released a long-range three from the wing, which nicked off the rim.

Dating back to last season’s Missouri Valley Conference title game between the schools in St. Louis, Moser expected nothing less from the in-state rivals.

“We didn’t expect anything less that it was going to come down to the end with them,” Moser said. “[Illinois State] came in and played hard.”

Townes’ 21 points would be highlighted by a stretch halfway through the second half as the senior made or assisted on seven straight Rambler points.

“On plays where momentum shifted, you need better players to have the confidence to step up,” Moser said. “You need that and whoever is going to win in this league will have to have two or three guys that are going to have to step up in key moments.”

Loyola got back into gear in the turnover department with seven compared to 17 in a 67-48 loss on Jan. 8 at Evansville.

“You don’t get them too low like in a loss at Evansville, but can’t get too high,” Moser said. “We must take things one game at a time and move on after this one.”

ISU’s top scorer Milik Yarbrough finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Yarbrough scored the first seven points for ISU and would be contained in the second half with six points, which forced over Redbird players to get involved.

Keyshawn Evans provided stability in the second half for the Redbirds with 16 points on 6-of-10 from the field. Moser did not want to see the guard go off knowing how nip and tuck the game would be.

“Keyshawn [Evans] always plays hard against us and we talked about not letting him get more than two three-pointers,” Moser said.

The Ramblers’ win proved to not be the flashiest, but the players showed the same grit and determination which got them to the Final Four last season. The process remains daunting with MVC play and the conference tournament, but Saturday provided the next in many steps of being the hunted as opposed to being the hunter.