Loyola Chicago fell to 1-2 in Missouri Valley play, 6-9 overall, with a 71-67 loss at home to Southern Illinois (5-11, 1-2 MVC) on Wednesday night.
The Salukis have had a rough go as of late, both on and off the court. Not only had they lost seven of their last nine games entering Wednesday, but on their return home from Illinois State on Sunday their bus broke down and they were stranded for hours.
In December, head coach Barry Hinson’s brother-in-law passed away, and emotions have been high.
“I am literally completely overjoyed for our players,” Hinson said. “I told [my players] in the locker room, and I don’t mind telling you, I’m extremely emotional right now. I told them, I just said, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t know anything other to tell them than that. I said we needed this. And selfishly, I don’t mind telling you, I said, ‘ I really needed this.’”
All 40 minutes were neck-and-neck contest, as no team built a lead larger than four points in the second half.
After Christian Thomas gave Loyola a 67-65 lead with a pair of free throws at the 1:13 mark, Jalen Pendleton responded with a bucket off a Desmar Jackson assist to knot the score once again.
The Ramblers turned the ball over on the next possession, and once again Jackson found Pendleton on the baseline for the go-ahead bucket with six seconds left.
In a final attempt to force overtime, Loyola’s Milton Doyle drew a foul trying to get to the rim with 1.1 seconds on the clock. He missed the first free throw, so Loyola head coach Porter Moser had Doyle intentionally miss the second, hoping someone for an offensive rebound and putback to force a tie.
Doyle missed the free throw, but sophomore Jeff White crashed the boards too early and was called for a lane violation.
The Ramblers fouled Jackson to extend the game, and he made both of his free throws to ice the victory for the Salukis.
“[White] went too early and he knows better,” Moser said. “He took away a chance.”
Jackson put together a dominating performance on both ends of the floor for Southern Illinois. The senior posted 31 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals. He was extremely efficient at 12-of-19 from the field.
“Desmar and I had a heart to heart two days ago, and I challenged him, and he responded extremely well,” Hinson said. “That’s the Desmar Jackson that we feel like can be that type of player night in and night out. I thought he single handedly disrupted so much on the zone.”
For the Salukis, sophomore Anthony Beane scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and Pendleton added 14 off the bench.
Freshman Sean O’Brien scored only four points, all at the foul line, but he led the Salukis with 12 rebounds.
Loyola outshot Southern Illinois at 55.3% from the field, including seven three-pointers, but the Ramblers’ 17 turnovers bit them.
The Salukis turned those turnovers into 18 points, most of them easy ones.
Moser’s starting backcourt of White and Doyle combined for 12 of the giveaways, though White still had a positive assist-turnover ratio with six dimes.
“We have a freshman and a sophomore at our 1 and 2 leading us, and they had 12 turnovers between and that’s the tough part about it right now,” Moser said. “The problem with those turnovers is they turn into dunks.”
The Ramblers also struggled against the Salukis’ zone without 6’8″ stretch-four Matt O’Leary, who Moser calls the team’s “best passer.” With his size and passing ability, O’Leary is Loyola’s key piece for breaking down opponents’ zones.
Thomas led Loyola with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his third double-double of the season.
Sophomore Devon Turk added 15 points on five three-pointers off the bench.
Loyola returns to action this weekend at Illinois State.
Other notes from Wednesday night:
—SIU head coach Barry Hinson on the team’s bus breaking down Sunday: “When’s the last time you guys slept on a bus or in a church on a pew. My dad was a minister and I never slept — well, I did. When I was a little kid and he was preaching I fell asleep on the pew.”
—Loyola head coach Porter Moser on Milton Doyle’s missed free throws that would have tied the game: “We got fouled we got a chance to make two free throws, that’s not the storyline. I told that to Milt. I said, ‘Milt, I’m going to send you to that foul line all season. Milton missing those free throws, that’s not the story, that’s not what lost us the game. I want that young kid to knowthat. I’m going to have confidence in him, sending him to the foul line.”
—Wichita State remained unbeaten with a 66-47 win against Illinois State.
—Northern Iowa blew out Evansville, 80-53. The Aces are now alone in last place at 0-3.
—Missouri State outlasted Bradley on the road, 68-65, to avoid a second straight loss.
—Drake gave Indiana State a good fight, but the Bulldogs came up four points short at home. The Sycamores are now 3-0 in the MVC, 12-3 overall.