CHICAGO — Something about Loyola brings out the best in Devonte Brown. The junior guard at Indiana State is having a breakout year as he has taken on a bigger role in the Sycamores backcourt, but arguably his two best games of the season have come against Loyola.
Brown torched Loyola for 22 points, all in the second half, as the Sycamores pushed past Loyola on Saturday at Gentile Arena. Indiana State (12-12, 8-4 MVC) let a 29-12 lead dwindle down to 3 points early in the second half, but then Brown came alive with freshman guard Brenton Scott at his side to lead their team to a 79-65 victory.
Loyola (14-10, 4-8) failed to keep the backcourt duo out of the lane, and Scott, a 43 percent 3-point shooter, also got loose on the perimeter several times.
“I think you saw two great performances from Scott and Brown,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “Those two guys, when you pack it in to stop their drive, they kick it for threes. You extend to stop the threes, they drove by us to start the second half. They’re very, very hard matchups and you’ve got to give those two a lot of credit.”
The only Loyola player who could keep up with the Indiana State guards was junior Earl Peterson. Peterson matched his career-high with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooters. He also had three assists and zero turnovers.
With leading scorer Milton Doyle missing the last six games with an ankle injury, Peterson has taken on a larger role for the Ramblers.
“I sort of was just seeing some gaps in the defense, and then I just wanted to penetrate and get all the way to the rim, and I was able to do that,” Peterson said of his Saturday performance, which he said was his best of the season individually.
After struggling early, Loyola closed the first half on a big run to cling within 34-28 at the break. Peterson continued the run with a bucket to start the second half, and then senior forward Christian Thomas‘ free throw two possessions later cut the deficit to one possession.
That was when Brown and Scott took over. The duo scored the next six points and then scored 32 of their team’s 34 points in the final 15 minutes.
“They came back and punched us right in the face. They had a heck of a spurt there towards the end of the first half, really pressuring us and causing us to get on our heels a little bit,” Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said. “I thought the second half, our guys were pretty good. We responded to them making that big run.”
Brown shot 6-of-6 from the field and 9-of-11 at the foul line while Scott scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half.
This was the second time this season Brown has dominated Loyola. When the two teams met in Terre Haute a few weeks ago, Brown recorded a career-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting in a 72-61 win. He also had 12 points and 6 rebounds last season when the Sycamores eliminated the Ramblers at the MVC Tournament.
Peterson kept the game from ever getting completely away from Loyola, but the Ramblers never made much of a dent in the Sycamores’ lead after that as Peterson got little help on the offensive end.
“They just dominated our 1’s and 2’s, with the exception of Earl,” Moser said. “I thought Earl was physically matched with those guys. The rest of our guys weren’t in the ballpark with Scott and Brown. Defensively, we just didn’t have an answer for Scott and Brown. They’re two tremendous scoring guards that can drive it and shoot it, and when you can do that you become a matchup problem for us. And they exposed it.”
Moser raved about Indiana State’s backcourt, even likening their skill level to that of Wichita State guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Baker and VanVleet are considered one of the better starting backcourts in the nation.
“In my opinion, they’re right up there with the Wichita guards,” Moser said. “Obviously the Wichita guards have a ton of experience, but these two guys are not too far behind as great tandem guards.”