Loyola Chicago (7-11, 2-4 MVC) returns home Wednesday night for a bout with Indiana State (14-4, 5-1).
The Sycamores sit in second place in the Missouri Valley. Their only loss this season came at No. 5 Wichita State on Saturday, their last time on the court.
When these teams first met on Jan. 1, Indiana State defeated Loyola, 70-58.
“They just find ways to beat you,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said of the Sycamores. “They’re really deep. They’re really well coached.”
Indiana State is led by the play of senior point guard Jake Odum. Odum paces the Sycamores in points, rebounds, and assists. He is also second in steals. The Terre Haute, Ind., native helped the team a NCAA Tournament berth as a freshman, and he could lead them to similar success this March.
“I look at how Odum is battling injuries,” Moser said. “He’s just a very, very tough kid.”
Odum averages 12.2 points, 4.4 boards, and 5.1 dimes per game.
Former junior college transfer Dawon Cummings has emerged as a dangerous scorer. He averages 11.3 points, but since the calendar turned to 2014 he has been on fire. In every game this month, he has scored at least 10 points, and he recorded 19 points Saturday against Wichita State.
As a junior, Cummings posted only 6.4 points per game and struggled from the field.
Moser said, “Junior college kids do that. They really come into their own in their second year, and he’s really hitting his stride.”
Manny Arop, Justin Gant, and Khristian Smith are the three other Sycamores with double-digit scoring averages.
Arop, who played a pair of seasons at Gonzaga, is the team’s best three-point threat at 43.1%. At 6’5″, he has the size to shoot over many perimeter defenders.
Last time it played Indiana State, Loyola received big performances from senior Christian Thomas and sophomore Cody Johnson. Thomas turned in what was then a season-high of 19 points. Johnson recorded a career-high 15 points.
To knock off the more talented Sycamores, the Ramblers need better performances from guards Milton Doyle and Devon Turk offensively. The duo was held to 16 points on 6-of-18 shooting on Jan. 1.
Doyle, one of the favorites for MVC Freshman of the Year, leads the Ramblers with 15.1 points per game.
The versatile guard has played much better at home this season. Last time he was at Gentile Arena, he recorded 28 points against Drake.
“Consistency is the thing you strive for with freshman, and Milton is no exception,” Moser said.
Turk is quickly climbing Loyola’s all-time for three-point shooting even though he is only a sophomore. He began MVC play on fire, but in the last three games he is only 4-of-20 from deep.
Wednesday’s opening tip at Gentile Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.