Loyola (6-10, 1-3 MVC) will be back at Gentile Arena on Wednesday night to host Drake (10-6, 1-3).
Though the Bulldogs sit tied with Loyola, Evansville, Bradley and Southern Illinois at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference, they have performed much better in the early part of the conference season. They lost by double digits to Bradley but nearly knocked off premier mid-major Indiana State, which has not lost in MVC play, and lost a close game to a very tough Northern Iowa team on the road.
“We’ve actually played well both nights,” Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “We just couldn’t find a way to finish either game.”
Drake was picked to finish last in the league during the preseason, but Giacoletti has led it to unexpected heights in his first season at the helm.
“They’re a great example of expectations and predictions only matter within your own locker room,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “They got some seniors that are playing like it’s their last hurrah, and Ray’s got them completely playing well and doing all the right things.”
Loyola, on the other hand, has declined after an emphatic, 89-57 win against Missouri State, whose only losses at the time were to Louisville and Virginia. (The Bears’ only other loss since then is to undefeated Wichita State.)
After that victory, the Ramblers lost at home to Southern Illinois, which entered with a three-game losing streak and then lost last weekend at home to Evansville. Saturday, the Ramblers played at Illinois State and lost, 59-50, in a winnable matchup.
Drake enters with a pair of highly capable scorers in Richard Carter and Jordan Daniels.
Carter, though he has his off nights, can be electric on offense. He leads the Bulldogs with 17.9 points and 3.2 assists per game. He has scored as many as 38 points in a game this season, and two games ago he posted 29 points against Indiana State.
Daniels, a Boston College transfer who became eligible in December, has made a big impact since donning a jersey with 15.4 points per contest. He is shooting nearly 54% from the field and 12-of-22 (54.5%) from beyond the arc.
The two guards are very undersized though, with Carter at 5’11” and Daniels at 5’9″.
They will be matched up against explosive Loyola guards Milton Doyle and Devon Turk.
Doyle, a candidate for MVC Newcomer of the Year, is a redshirt freshman, but his natural talent and athleticism helps make up for his lack of experience. He leads the Ramblers with 14.6 points per game and is averaging 15 in his last three. He has scored as many as 32 points in a single outing.
“The guy can really score the basketball, and it looks to me like he gets better every game,” Giacoletti said.
Doyle is also already developing as an all-around contributor, tying sophomore Jeff White as the team’s leader in assists with 3.2 dimes per game. He also averages 4.1 rebounds and a team-best 1.3 steals.
“I love the fact that he’s really embraced doing other things than scoring,” Moser said. ” And just like all freshmen, they go through ups and downs, especially through the grind of the season. He’s been improving and I’m excited about what he can be. I want him to enjoy the journey about getting better every day.”
Turk has emerged as a great offensive weapon off the bench for the Ramblers with his phenomenal three-point shooting. The sophomore went for 30 points in the Missouri State victory, and he has drained at least five treys in three of his last five games.
Tip-off at Gentile Arena is slated for 7 p.m. CT Wednesday.