Loyola (Chicago) defeated Kent State on the road Saturday, continuing a hot start to the season.
The Ramblers are now 4-1, and the only loss came at nationally ranked Michigan State. Although two of the wins are against non-Division I schools, Saturday’s victory marks a true sign of progress for coach Porter Moser‘s squad. It is the most impressive non-conference win Loyola has had since making the transition to the Missouri Valley Conference last season.
Kent State came into this game with a 4-1 record and had been picked to finish No. 3 in the MAC East.
Not only is Kent State a good team, but in the process of defeating the Golden Flashes, the Ramblers showed they solved two of last season’s biggest issues: winning on the road and hanging on to double-digit leads.
The Ramblers entered this season with a 19-game road losing streak, and that stretched to 20 with the loss at Michigan State. They finally ended the streak at Texas-San Antonio, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot because the Roadrunners are a bottom-dweller in Conference USA.
Winning at Kent State actually means something. The Golden Flashes were still 3-1 at home entering Saturday and have historically fared well in non-conference home games. If Loyola can win at Kent State, it should at least compete on the road with most MVC teams.
The Ramblers also held a 20-point lead against the Golden Flashes. At various points in the second half, it looked like Loyola would blow that lead and take a tough loss. Once the Golden Flashes cut the Ramblers’ lead to five points with 9:08 to go, they stayed within two possessions for most of the remaining time.
But Loyola never let Kent State get over the hump. The Ramblers had answers for every Golden Flashes run.
First it was back-to-back 3-pointers by senior Christian Thomas and junior Devon Turk. Then it was Thomas again with a jumper a few minutes later. Then it was junior Montel James with a 3-point play and another layup two possessions later.
Finally, sophomore Jeff White‘s dagger 3-pointer in the final minute put Kent State away for good.
Competing for a top-three spot in the MVC this season is still out of the question. But the rest of the conference is pretty wide open. With the way the Ramblers have played in their last two games, Kenpom.com’s preseason prediction of Loyola finishing fifth in the conference doesn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.