Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Loyola 70, Bradley 50: Ingram's hot hand carries Loyola to its best start in Missouri Valley play

                                       Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— For the first time since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in the 2013-14 season, the Loyola Ramblers are over the .500 in league play at the halfway mark.

Behind a game-high 24 points from Donte Ingram, the Ramblers (15-7, 5-4 Missouri Valley) defeated in-state rivals, the Bradley Braves (8-14, 3-6 Missouri Valley) 70-50 at Gentile Arena and swept the season series for the second time in three seasons.

Despite the individual effort and Loyola's start in the first half of MVC play, Ingram knows there are a lot of games to be played and everyone's A-game must be brought.

"We want to make sure going forward that we are locked in because there a lot of teams that can play on any given day," Ingram said. "The margin of the scores in league play are slim, so you never know and you have to bring your A-game every night."

Ingram helped spearhead a 7-0 run in the early stages of the first half on a circus layup as he switched hands mid-air to put Loyola up 14-13.

Despite scoring a career-high 35 in the first meeting against Bradley, Milton Doyle’s first points did not come until the 4:46 mark with a three-pointer from the wing, which capped an 8-0 Loyola run. Doyle finished with 14 points, on 5-of-10 from the field and four assists.

The Ramblers were en fuego from three-point range as they shot 11-of-21 (52 percent) as Ingram highlighted all individual players on 6-of-9.

Bradley’s achilles heel proved to be its inability to control the ball with 21 turnovers, while Loyola took advantage on the other end with 25 points.

Loyola coach Porter Moser gave credit to the defense for playing the passing lanes, but not to an aggressive standpoint.

"Our best offense was our defense," Moser said. "We had active hands and active feet going, causing deflections and it wasn't like we were gambling, but more on the active side. Every time we got deflections, we ran and for a good stretch our best offense proved to be our defense."

The Ramblers started out rusty with four consecutive missed field goals before a three-point make from Ingram broke the seal at the 16:34 mark.

Doyle began to get into a rhythm on the floor as he made a mid-range jumper as the Ramblers maintained a 10-8 lead.

On their heels and down 24-17 with 7:13 left in the first half, the Braves engineered an 8-0 run to pull to retake the lead, despite turning the ball over ten times up to the point.

The Ramblers regained the lead in the latter stages of the first half en route to a 34-30 lead after 20 minutes, but failed to make any headway because of five missed free throws, which kept the Braves in range.

With the game still in sight, Loyola left little doubt in the start of the second half by going on a 9-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 43-30.

Defensive awareness picked up for Loyola as Bradley’s offensive possessions became longer, with some ending in shot clock violations or forced shots with little to no time left on the clock.

The Ramblers’ lead expanded in the process to 18 with 12:33 left in regulation and would not look back as they cruised to a xx-point win.

The Ramblers return to hardwood on Jan. 28 as they face the Indiana State Sycamores in Terre Haute, IN for a 1 p.m. tip on the WatchESPN app, while the Braves host the Wichita State Shockers on Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.