Loyola Chicago (5-5) will wrap up its home slate for 2013 against Northern Illinois tonight. The Ramblers, who are undefeated at home, are coming off a 12-point victory against the Campbell Camels.
Northern Illinois (3-5) has had a tough start to the season, but the Huskies are much improved since finishing 5-25 last season.
The Huskies, who are coming off a loss to No. 22 Massachusetts, are one of the country’s leaders in rebounding with 40 boards per game.
This is in part because of their frontcourt of junior Jordan Threloff, junior Pete Rakocevic, and senior Aksel Bolin, but even their guards rebound the ball relatively well.
Meanwhile, Loyola averages only 30.4 rebounds per game, and 6’8″ forwards Nick Osborne and Matt O’Leary combine for only 7.9 of them. The Ramblers have a clear size disadvantage in the frontcourt, so they will need Osborne and O’Leary to stay clear of foul trouble.
Offensively, Northern Illinois is led by Threloff and Darrell Bowie.
Threloff, despite playing only 19.8 minutes per game, averages 9.5 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 63.6% from the field, good for No. 2 in the MAC. Against Nebraska on Nov. 30, the Illinois State transfer posted 18 points and six boards.
Bowie leads the Huskies in scoring and rebounding with 10 points and 6.6 boards per game. However, he has struggled his last three times on the floor, averaging only 6.3 points on 29.2% shooting.
Overall, Northern Illinois is one of the worst offensive teams in the nation, but it ranks No. 3 in the MAC West in defensive efficiency.
Loyola’s offense has been gelling in all four home games this season, and it will be interesting to see if the Huskies’ can slow down the Ramblers’ attack.
Loyola has looked very solid in its last two home games, and that is why the Ramblers are once again favorites at Gentile Arena.
Freshman guard Milton Doyle has continued to impress everyone as he set a Loyola freshman record with 32 points against Campbell.
On Monday, Doyle was awarded MVC Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week, something that even All-American Doug McDermott did not achieve as a Creighton freshman back when the Bluejays were MVC members.
Junior forward Christian Thomas has been an efficient, aggressive scorer in the post, and the Ramblers will need similar production from against the Huskies’ front line.
O’Leary will also be a key to overcoming Northern Illinois’ size advantage. A versatile forward, O’Leary had a career game on Friday with 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
When Loyola was on the road in November, it blew a double-digit lead three times in the second half and lost. Against Campbell, the Ramblers controlled a double-digit lead in the second half and never let the Camels get closer than six points.
“We’ve lost three second-half leads of 19 [points], 17 [points], and 17 [points], and you’ve got to go through those things and learn,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “We held on to a lead last game and we’re excited about the growth process.”
Tip-off at Gentile Arena is set for 7 p.m. CT tonight.
All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.