Loyola bounced back from a double-overtime loss at Northern Iowa to survive Evansville’s upset bid at home Saturday. The Ramblers (14-7, 4-4 MVC) held off the Aces in a 67-61 despite shooting just 29.2% from 3-point range, which is 10 percentage points lower than their season average.
Four Ramblers scored in double figures, led by junior forward Aundre Jackson with 17 points off the bench.
Here’s some notes, quotes and photos from the day’s action.
—Although Evansville (10-11, 1-7) is possibly the worst team in the Valley this year, being able to win without shooting the ball well was great news for Loyola. The Ramblers have not been a good defensive team, and they had struggled when the shots weren’t falling. They shot 22.2% from deep against St. Joe’s in a 14-point loss, and 30.4% in a 22-point loss to Illinois State.
“You gotta be able to win when you don’t shoot well,” Moser said. “I thought we had a bunch of good looks, and were only up two [at halftime]. You’ve got to grind out this win without a very good shooting night from three.”
—Jackson disappeared for large portions of the first half, but exploded for 12 points in the second.
Freshman guard Bruno Skokna had his own theory on Jackson’s second half outburst — “I was passing him the ball more,” he deadpanned — but Jackson said it was simply a matter of being more aggressive.
“Just being more of a beast,” Jackson said. “I was kind of lagging in the first half, but the second half I was just more aggressive.”
—Loyola did a good job defensively on Jaylon Brown, the MVC’s leading scorer. Brown, who came in averaging 21.2 points, was held to 16 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
More importantly, the Ramblers limited his touches in crunch time when Evansville needed key buckets. In the final five minutes, Brown attempted only two shots: a contested 3-pointer, which he missed, and a layup with 5 seconds when the game was essentially over.
“A guy that’s averaging 21, you’re not going to keep him scoreless,” Moser said. “I thought we did a pretty good job. He makes you work. What says a lot about him, he played 37 minutes and his defense was outstanding. Jaylon Brown really guarded and that’s a credit to him.”
—Skokna and junior guard Tyson Smith added great depth to Loyola’s backcourt. Skokna posted 13 points, a career-high against Division I opponents, and shot 6-of-6 at the foul line.
Loyola made an effort to get him to the foul line when Evansville was fouling in the final minute, and that’s a huge compliment for a freshman playing on a team full of veterans.
Skokna also made a huge layup at the shot clock buzzer with 1:16 remaining to give Loyola a 62-59 lead.
Smith’s numbers don’t tell his whole story — he shot 1-of-6 from the field for 3 points. But he also grabbed 5 rebounds and gave Loyola a huge energy lift in the first half during the team’s slow start.
“Bruno and Tyson’s lift was unbelievable,” Moser said. “Those two, we needed those two. Tyson’s getting his confidence back. The maturation of Bruno is the most encouraging thing.”
—Freshman guard Cam Satterwhite and junior forward Vlatko Granic did not play, but Moser said it was because junior forward Maurice Kirby provided good minutes, which meant Loyola could avoid going deeper into its bench.
“They need to stay ready,” Moser said. “Hopefully we’re talking about those two after a game like we’re talking about Bruno and Tyson.”
—At halftime, Loyola inducted team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt into its athletics hall of fame. The 97-year-old nun received a standing ovation before speaking to the crowd.
“It’s only my first year, but I’m surprised that it took so long,” Skokna said.
—Loyola had 3,006 people in attendance, its largest crowd of the season by nearly 1,000. Moser thought the crowd provided a boost coming off the dispiriting loss at UNI, and he implored fans to keep showing up to games.
“They were very down after Northern Iowa,” Moser said. “Who gave us a boost? The crowd. I want to say thank you right after the gate to all of them. Please come back. You make a difference. You’ve just got to visualize what kind of atmosphere it would be if we fill this thing every night.”
—What’s next for Loyola in the Valley? At 4-4, the Ramblers are tied for fourth place with Southern Illinois and Drake. The Ramblers will be heavy favorites once again Wednesday when they host Bradley.