Indiana State (10-3, 1-0 MVC) was picked to finish No. 2 in the league during the preseason, and the Sycamores had lived up to that hype in non-conference play with victories against Notre Dame and Belmont.
Loyola (5-8, 0-1 MVC) held its own early against the more talented Sycamores, commanding a 24-23 lead with 8:54 to play until halftime.
The Sycamores’ domination on the glass led to nine second chance points in the first 20 minutes, and they took a 36-32 lead into the locker room.
The Ramblers remained within striking distance at 43-37 inside of 11 minutes to play, but back-to-back three-pointers from Indiana State’s Lucas Eitel bumped the lead up to double digits for the first time.
Loyola would close the gap to as few as eight points on Cody Johnson’s three-pointer with 1:25 remaining, but 0-of-3 field-goal shooting the rest of the way kept the Ramblers from making it any closer.
“I thought their physicality on the boards was the big difference in the game,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “I was really proud of how my guys competed.”
Junior forward Christian Thomas led the Ramblers with 19 points, a season-high, on 8-of-12 shooting. Thomas also made a career-high two three-pointers.
Johnson gave Loyola a much-needed boost off the bench, notching a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and 13 of those came in the second half. On the defensive end, the sophomore had three blocks.
Freshman guard Milton Doyle struggled to score the basketball for the third straight game, recording eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. However, Doyle continued to prove his value as an all-around player with six rebounds and seven assists.
Senior Manny Arop led Indiana State in scoring and rebounding with 18 points and seven boards. In his last four games, the former Gonzaga transfer is averaging 18.8 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Senior guard Dawon Cummings posted 10 points off the bench while Eitel added nine points on three treys.
Point guard Jake Odum, a conference player of the year contender, was held to six points and three assists, but he was a pest on the defensive end with four steals.
Next up for the Ramblers are Missouri State Tigers (10-2) for their conference home opener Sunday afternoon. Opening tip is slated for 3 p.m. CT.