Indiana State (15-4, 6-1 MVC) needed 37 points from its bench Wednesday, but the Sycamores found a way to outlast Loyola Chicago (7-12, 2-5), 65-61, at Gentile Arena
In what was a tight game throughout, neither team led by more than six points. The Sycamores held a six-point advantage in the final seconds. But Loyola sophomore Jeff White made things interesting with a step-back three-pointer with 5.9 ticks remaining.
The Ramblers immediately fouled Sycamore senior Dawon Cummings, needing him to miss both free throws to have a chance. Cummings’ first shot rimmed out, but he sank the second.
Loyola freshman Milton Doyle jacked a desperation three-pointer that was off target at the buzzer.
“I told our team that was a quintessential, classic Valley game,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “It was a grind-it-out game. We were good enough to be close and in it, we weren’t good enough to win it. And [the Sycamores] were.
The Ramblers grabbed a 52-50 lead, their first of the second half, with 6:06 remaining. From then on they struggled to take care of the ball and find quality shots.
Sophomore forward Nick Osborne settled for a contested jumper when Loyola had a chance to extend its lead.
Doyle stepped on the baseline while driving when the Ramblers trailed by only five points in the final two minutes.
“We had some plays down the stretch that aren’t find-ways-to-win types of plays,” Moser said.
Just like in its first meeting with Indiana State, Loyola got pounded on the glass. The Sycamores outrebounded the Ramblers, 41-28, and had 12 offensive rebounds to the Ramblers’ three.
“There were a couple of possessions where they got to the free throw line and we didn’t box out,” White said. “That’s kind of a game-changer.”
Loyola held Indiana State’s starters to only 28 points, but three Sycamore reserves stepped up when they were needed.
Sophomore wing Khristian Smith scored a team-high 18 points, including Indiana State’s first 11 of the game. Without his early offense, the Sycamores could have dug a deep hole in the first half.
Sophomore guard Brandon Burnett added 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers. Junior Jake Kitchell recorded six points and seven rebounds.
Leading scorer Jake Odum had a quiet game but finished with 14 points. The senior point guard had a pair of and-ones after Loyola took its 52-50 lead, and he scored six more points in the final 2:21.
Doyle led Loyola with 20 points and four assists, continuing his dominance at Gentile Arena.
White posted 13 points while junior forward Christian Thomas notched 11 points, nine of which came in the second half.
Loyola now sits tied for last place in the Missouri Valley, but it is also only two games out of third place.
Four of the Ramblers’ five losses have come by single digits. The only double-digit loss was to the Sycamores on Jan. 1, and both Moser and Indiana State head coach Greg Lansing admitted the competition was much closer than the final score suggested.
Despite the troubling record, Moser said he thinks his team has not lost confidence.
“The guys are playing passionately,” Moser said. “I think they believe they can win. I don’t think they’re doubting they can win. We’ve got to learn and find ways to win.”
White said, “Going into it I already knew it was going to be a tough conference, but I feel if we play our game we’re right in the mix. We’ve just got to come in and focus and play our game. It’s a great conference and I feel we fit right in.”
Loyola completes its two-game home stand Saturday against Northern Iowa at 3 p.m. CT.