Loyola Chicago (8-15, 3-8 MVC) completes its season series Sunday with Illinois State (13-10, 6-5). Loyola lost the first meeting Jan. 11 at Illinois State, 59-50.
The Ramblers enter amidst their worst stretch of the Missouri Valley season. They have lost three games in a row, including a home defeat Wednesday to Bradley.
Loyola now sits tied for last place in the MVC with Drake and Evansville.
Illinois State faced a three-game losing streak as well at the end of January, but it has turned things around the begin the new month. The Redbirds swept their two-game homestand, which included games with Drake and Northern Iowa.
They are currently tied with Missouri State for third place in the MVC.
Illinois State has continued to use a four-guard lineup. Although the Redbirds have struggled on the glass with this game plan, they have had greater speed and quickness than their opponents throughout the season.
Reggie Lynch is the team’s lone true big man in the starting lineup. However, Lynch is one of the better youngsters the MVC has to offer.
The 6’10” freshman averages 7.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks while shooting 59.3% from the field. He is one of Loyola guard Milton Doyle’s top competitors for the MVC Freshman of the Year award.
In MVC games, Lynch averages has jumped to 8.4 points, 4.9 boards and 2.8 rejections.
Loyola is also an undersized team, and Lynch’s presence in the post could give the Ramblers some troubles. In the Jan. 11 meeting, Lynch registered 11 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals in 25 minutes against Loyola.
Illinois State head coach Dan Muller mainly utilizes a group of five guards in his backcourt rotation.
Combo-guard Daishon Knight leads the Redbirds in scoring with 12.6 points per game. The junior struggles in terms of efficiency though, shooting 36% from the field. He also has amassed an equal number of assists and turnovers.
Like Knight, junior Bobby Hunter both scores and distributes. Hunter averages 10.7 points, 2.3 assists and a team-high 1.6 steals.
Unlike Knight, he is an efficient offensive player, shooting 50% from the field with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Freshman point guard Paris Lee has come a long way since his collegiate debut at Virginia Commonwealth, where he coughed up the ball nine times to HAVOC. Lee is averaging a team-high 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Sophomores Zach Lofton and Nick Zeisloft man the wings.
Lofton is a streaky scorer, and his shooting percentages do not do full justice to his abilities. He shoots only 25% from beyond the arc, but he can get hot and have a large effect on the Redbirds’ performance.
Lofton drained four three-pointers in Illinois State’s early-season upset at Northwestern, and he has made four three-pointers two other times.
After Hunter, Zeisloft is the Redbirds’ best three-point shooter at 35.1%. Two games ago, Zeisloft netted 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Loyola will need Doyle to return to his usual ways at home Sunday.
Doyle entered Thursday’s game against Bradley averaging 20.8 points at Gentile Arena while shooting better than 57% from the field. Against the Braves, the freshman recorded only 16 points on 5-of-18 (27.8%) shooting. He also committed six turnovers.
Opening tip Sunday at Gentile Arena is slated for 3 p.m. CT.