Loyola heads to Indiana State on Saturday for its first conference road game of the season. In their last meeting, the Ramblers blew out the Sycamores at the MVC Tournament. However, Indiana State has won all four regular season meetings since Loyola joined the Valley in 2013.
What you should know about Indiana State (6-7, 0-1 MVC – No. 162 KenPom)
Indiana State has always been a defense-first, offense-second (and sometimes not at all) under sixth-year coach Greg Lansing. This year, the Sycamores are taking that to the extreme. They rank No. 40 in defensive efficiency and No. 286 in offensive efficiency.
Indiana State, like Loyola, lost its MVC opener. The Sycamores fell on the road to Evansville but held the Aces high-powered offense below one point per possession. The Aces scored only 0.72 points per possession in the first half.
That defense will benefit Indiana State greatly when it hosts Loyola. The Ramblers rank No. 270 in offensive efficiency. Even against Southern Illinois’ average defense Wednesday, Loyola fell shy of scoring one point per possession.
Indiana State’s biggest defensive flaw is that Lansing’s players are willing to foul a lot in order to force turnovers and tough shots. Loyola as a team does not shoot many free throws, but guards Earl Peterson and Milton Doyle rank No. 11 and No. 16, respectively, in the Valley in free throw rate. Those two, with their ability to blow by defenders, need to be aggressive find their way to the charity stripe if Loyola is going to pull off the small upset on the road.
What you should know about Loyola (7-6, 0-1 MVC – No. 204 KenPom)
Loyola is learning the difficulties of sustaining success. After last year’s 24-win campaign, the Ramblers are hovering barely above .500 and lost their MVC opener at home to Southern Illinois.
The defense was generally solid, except for dominant scorer Anthony Beane going off for 26 points and a few weak efforts on the defensive glass. The problem was Loyola could not score, even though Southern Illinois is one of the MVC’s worst defensive teams on two-pointers.
The Ramblers shot 11-of-22 (50 percent) from two-point range, and a few of those buckets came in garbage time. For large portions of the game, Loyola was forcing tough twos or settling for threes.
Indiana State is very different from Southern Illinois. The Sycamores are a dominant defensive team, possibly the Valley’s best, but they struggle to score.
Loyola had trouble with Indiana State’s guards in two regular season meetings last season. If the Ramblers can hold sophomore Brenton Scott and senior Devonte Brown in check, it will come down to who can win a rock fight. Neither team will be scoring much.
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Start time: 1 p.m. CT
Sagarin: Indiana State -6
KenPom: Indiana State 66, Loyola 60 (75%)