Loyola Chicago (5-7) continued its road struggles Monday evening with an 83-69 loss at Fordham (7-4).
The Ramblers eased into halftime with a 38-29 lead, but the Rams took complete control in the second half, scoring 1.59 points per possession.
It was the fifth time this season the Ramblers blew a comfortable lead in the second half and lost this season. In their last game against Northern Illinois, they led by 15 points early in the second half and lost by six, and the script was similar against Tennessee Tech, Tulane, and Portland State.
“It’s our Achilles heel,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “All Fordham did was old-fashioned dribble drive. We couldn’t stop the dribble drive, and people are watching that on tape and they’re exposing us with athleticism.”
“With our second half leads, we be too tentative,” Loyola sophomore Devon Turk added. “First half we come out gunning, second half we just get tentative. We’ve just got to be more confident in the second half.”
Turk had the hot hand early for Loyola with 14 points in the first half. He scored 11 points in a four-minute stretch to give Loyola a two-point lead, and the Ramblers continued to build their lead to as many as 11 points with 1:56 until halftime.
Back-to-back layups from Fordham’s Bryan Smith and Ryan Rhoomes cut the Ramblers’ advantage down to 36-29, but Loyola sophomore Jeff White finished off the period with a layup of his own to make it a nine-point game.
Fordham opened the second half on a 12-2 run led by Smith and Rhoomes, and freshman Jon Severe’s basket with 13:51 left gave the Rams the lead for good.
With 8:29 left, the Rams’ lead expanded to 56-48 on a Smith three-pointer.
The Ramblers were back within 58-55 at the 6:33 mark, but Loyola freshman made a crucial mistake fouling Severe on a three-point attempt. Severe, a 74.1% foul shooter who made all 11 of his free throws Monday, sank all three.
Loyola would not go quietly as White drilled a triple with 3:06 left to cut the deficit to four points, but Severe’s three-pointer with 1:45 remaining served as the dagger.
The Rams then made 14-of-14 at the foul line in the final 90 seconds to earn their third straight win at Rose Hill Gym.
Turk, who had scored a total of eight points in Loyola’s recent three-game homestand, had his biggest game in a long time with 17 points, tying his season high. The sophomore had a convincing demeanor and nailed 5-of-10 shots from beyond the arc.
“Coach has instilled confidence in me, and I instill confidence in myself,” Turk said. “I don’t think about it too much, I just play.”
Turk was the driving force for the Ramblers in the first half, but all he managed in the second half scoring-wise was a lone three-pointer as the Rams switched from zone to man defense.
“It was just a matter of not getting as much touches in the second half,” he said.
Doyle, the Ramblers star freshman who transferred from Kansas, was held to six points as he dealt with foul trouble for the second straight game. However, Doyle had one of his better overall outings with eight rebounds, six assists, and only two turnovers.
“No doubt, he can impact us in many ways, not just scoring,” Moser said of Doyle.
In the frontcourt, junior Christian Thomas quietly recorded 12 points, six rebounds, and two assists; sophomore Cody Johnson set a career-high with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Defensively, the Ramblers were a mess, especially in the second half. Fordham shot 15-of-26 from the field in the second half, including 4-of-8 on three-pointers, and the Rams’ guards were able to break down Loyola off the dribble at will.
“With these new rules, with all the hand-checking, it’s going to expose to the athletes — and really expose the non-athletes,” Moser said. “If you can’t defend laterally you’re going to get exposed. And that’s where we’re at right now — we can’t defend laterally. We can take teams out of their plays, like we did in the first half, and then teams just start to drive us, and we haven’t been able to stop it.”
Loyola returns to action on New Year’s Day at Indiana State for its first Missouri Valley Conference game. The Sycamores are 8-3 with one more non-conference game against Belmont on Saturday, and they are regarded as one of the nation’s best mid-major squads.
The Jan. 1 matchup will be the Ramblers’ introduction to the MVC, as they were long-time members of the Horizon League until this season.
Though Loyola has one of the worst overall records in the conference at 5-7, it is focusing on every team being 0-0 in the league when the calendar turns to January.
“The attitude is just a new start,” Turk said. “We’re going into the Missouri Valley with a fresh mindset — and we know we’re a good team.”