ROGERS PARK- After losing to Northern Iowa last week in what was considered a “statement game”, the Loyola Ramblers (12-4, 2-2 Missouri Valley Conference) had yet another one of those games on Sunday.
Unfortunately, the 15th ranked Wichita State Shockers (14-2, 4-0 MVC) came to the Gentile Center and walked away with a 67-53 victory. The Ramblers once again failed to make a dent among the top tier of their conference and have lost two of their last three games as a result.
LU did start this game fast out of the gate, they actually surprised the Shockers by taking a 28-23 lead at halftime. But that didn’t last very long as WSU turned on the rocket fuel once the second half began. The Shockers opened the half on an 18-6 run and never looked back.
The Shocker defense played a huge part in this win for many reasons. The main reason being that they held the Ramblers to just 37-percent shooting from the field (17-of-46). They also forced 10 turnovers, blocked five shots and snagged six steals.
The only Loyola players to score in double figures were junior guards Devon Turk (11 points), and Earl Peterson -who hit an insane half-court shot to beat the shot clock late in the second half- (13 points). Wichita State managed hold four Rambler players -senior guard Joe Crisman, junior guard Jeff White, freshman forward Julius Rajala, and freshman guard Ben Richardson– scoreless.
The big dogs for Loyola, senior forward Christian Thomas and sophomore guard Milton Doyle, combined for just 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists.
From an offensive stand point WSU made 25-of-46 field goals (54.3-percent) to go with seven three-point shots. They also outscored LU in the paint 22-10, got 11 points off turnovers, and another eight points thanks to fast break and second chance points.
At one point Wichita led by as many as 16. Leading the way for the Shockers in double figures was their trio of guards in junior Fred VanVleet (who only missed one shot), junior Ron Baker, and senior Tekele Cotton who pitched in 14, 15, and 16 points respectively.
The Ramblers thought they could slow the Shockers down with zone defense but all that did was leave a man open at the end of the day. They also seemed to tire as the game wore on in the second half. But at the end of the day; Wichita State had too much talent, too much speed, and at times were too physical for Loyola to handle.
“(The Shockers) showed why they are who they are in the second half” said Loyola head coach Porter Moser after the game. He continued, “We didn’t match that (energy) level…. They took (their) offense and defense to another level in that second half.”
The Ramblers must find a way to match that next level if they want to reign supreme in the Missouri Valley Conference someday. They need to find a way to keep up with the Northern Iowa’s and Wichita State’s of the world if they want to win the conference title.
They’ll get what should be a nice “pick-me-up” game when the 3-13 (0-4 MVC) Drake Bulldogs come to Chicago on Wednesday, but ultimately the Ramblers will have to grind out the tough wins needed to succeed in this conference.
“There’s never been another team that understands 40 minutes more than (Wichita State)” coach Moser said. He’ll have to get his team to understand those same 40 minutes if they want to dethrone the MVC’s top dogs.
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