On Friday night, Loyola Chicago (4-5) will try for its first winning streak of the 2013-14 season.
The Ramblers, who are coming off a win against UIC last Saturday, will host the Campbell Fighting Camels (4-5), who were upset by Division II Chowan on Tuesday.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT at Gentile Arena.
Loyola has already lost a handful of heartbreakers. In the Ramblers’ five losses, their average margin of defeat is 3.8 points per game, with two losses coming in overtime.
Even Loyola’s wins have come in close games, as they defeated UIC by three points, SIU-Edwardsville by one, and Milwaukee by four.
The Ramblers are coming off back-to-back solid outings. Before their defeat of UIC, they took Mississippi State to overtime on the road and only lost by one.
Freshman guard Milton Doyle has continued to emerge as one of the best Ramblers, and sophomore forward Nick Osborne has been a dominant force, when he can stay on the floor.
Osborne has been limited to 17.5 minutes per game thanks to his four fouls per game, but he is averaging 7.3 points on 60% field-goal shooting to go along with four rebounds.
Against UIC, Osborne posted 12 points, a career-high, on 5-of-5 shooting.
Doyle has shown signs of becoming an elite player since opening night. He has scored at least nine points in eight of nine games, including five games with at least 18 points.
Doyle is also averaging 3.1 assists per game, but that comes along with 3.1 turnovers per game.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser stressed last week that the Ramblers need Doyle to develop into a player with a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, but he should be happy with the production he has received from his rookie.
Doyle has shown a precocious ability to get to the basket when he desires, and the other parts of his game are coming along. In the last two games, he has shot 59.1% from the field and 75% from the foul line.
Among Missouri Valley Conference freshmen, he ranks No. 3 in assist rate and No. 2 in free throw rate.
Doyle’s assist to turnover issue is one that Loyola shares as a whole. The Ramblers average 14 turnovers and only 14.6 assists per game for 1.04 ratio.
They rank No. 1 in the MVC in assist rate, No. 40 nationally, but their turnover percentage is the worst in the conference and in the nation’s bottom 50.
Campbell, picked last in the Big South North Division by The Catch and Shoot and fifth out of six in the official coaches and media poll, sports junior forward Darius Leonard and junior guard Andrew Ryan as its best players.
Leonard leads the Camels in rebounding (6.6 rpg) and field-goal percentage (53.3%), and he ranks second with 12.4 points per game.
At 6’9″, he will be a major threat if Osborne once again struggles with foul trouble. Leonard averages fewer than three fouls per game, but he has already fouled out once and had four fouls two games ago.
Leonard has already scored in double figures six times, and it would not be surprising to see him reach the 20-point mark in the first time career if Osborne is limited to 20 minutes or fewer again.
Ryan leads the team with 12.7 points per game, and he can also distribute with 2.3 assists. Although he is only 4-of-14 from beyond the arc in his last two games, Ryan has the ability to light it up from deep at 45.1% on the season. He has hit as many as five three-pointers in a single game.
At point guard, the Camels start freshman Quinton Ray.
Ray’s scoring has been subpar with 3.3 points per game on 30.1% shooting, but he has 38 assists (4.2) and only 24 turnovers (2.7 per game).
Loyola ranks in the top 100 in turnover percentage defense, and how Ray handles the Ramblers’ pressure could be the X-factor.
Prediction: Loyola 74, Campbell 68
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All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.