Loyola Chicago (5-6) looked on track to extend its winning streak to three games Wednesday night, leading Northern Illinois (4-5) 29-14 early in the second half. But from that point, things quickly unraveled for the Ramblers.
Jordan Threloff converted a layup and Travon Baker drilled a three-pointer a couple of minutes later to cut the lead to nine points.
Aaron Armstead then caught fire, scoring 12 straight points for the Huskies in a five-minute stretch to pull his team within four points.
With 6:54 remaining, Dontel Highsmith’s three-point play gave Northern Illinois its first lead since the opening possession, and Loyola never fully recovered.
The Ramblers briefly regained the lead on Milton Doyle’s putback with 2:20 left, but the Huskies responded with a 6-0 run on a Darrell Bowie and-one and a Baker trey. After that, the Ramblers got no closer than three points, falling 55-49.
The loss was their first at Gentile Arena this season.
Loyola finished the game shooting 35.4% from the field, being outrebounded by 11 boards, and turning the ball over 16 times compared to nine assists.
Christian Thomas led the Ramblers 16 points and six rebounds, and Jeff White scored 14 points, his highest output of the month.
Doyle, the reigning MVC Player and Newcomer of the Week, struggled at Gentile Arena for the first time, recording only 10 points on 3-of-11 field-goal shooting. Doyle missed a large part of the first half due to foul trouble, yet the Ramblers were still able to build a double-digit lead without him.
Wednesday marked the fourth time this season the Ramblers have blown a double-digit lead in the second half and lost, leaving head coach Porter Moser displeased and frustrated to say the least.
“The concentration level, the leadership, and the will to win in second halves with this team is lacking,” Moser said after the game. “Everything in the first half — our game plan, what we wanted to do defensively, we were on it.”
Loyola will hit the east coast for their final road game Monday at Fordham. Opening tip will be at 4 p.m. ET at Rose Hill Gym.
Other notes from Wednesday night and around the Missouri Valley:
—Head coach Porter Moser on Milton Doyle: “He does such a good job driving the ball. He’s also our best passer. Every time Milt drove, he drew a crowd. And when you come off a game of 32 points, obviously you’ve got to understand that you can be a great passer.”
—Also Wednesday, Indiana State’s four-game winning streak ended at Saint Louis, and Drake defeated Western Michigan. The Sycamores are one of the few teams in the conference that can challenge Wichita State, and the Bulldogs have the potential to finish in the top four or five of the league.
—MVC action is right around the corner, beginning on Jan. 1. Here is your conference season primer on what every Valley team has done and what they are expected to do in the coming months.