With Gentile Arena handing out free Chick-fil-A sandwiches to students before Wednesday’s game, Loyola was too full to bite on Wright State’s pump fakes. The result was another strong effort defensively as the Ramblers won 77-64 and held Raiders leading scorer Mark Alstork, who entered the game averaging 21.6 points, to 13 points.
The pump fake has been a major part of Alstork’s success this season. The 6’5″ guard has utilized the technique often to get defenders off-balance and draw fouls. Entering Wednesday, 38.6% of Alstork’s points against Division I competition came at the foul line, a stat Loyola junior guard Clayton Custer called “ridiculous.”
Loyola (8-2) halted the ridiculousness on Wednesday, as Alstork needed 15 field goal attempts and 4 free throws to reach his team-high 13 points. Only 30.7% of Alstork’s points came at the line, the fourth-lowest mark of the season and second-lowest in a game where he scored less than 30 points.
“We spent the last couple of days staying down on their shot fake at the beginning and at the end of drives,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said of the team’s practice preparation. “A lot of times they drive and then they stop and shot fake you. We just wanted [Alstork] to take tough shots. That’s the thing you do. You don’t want to gamble on a great scorer. You just want to be solid and make him earn it, and that was the mentality on him.”
Practicing against shot fakes is one thing. Succeeding defensively against a player who has continually burned defenders with his shot fake presents a whole new challenge.
On Wright State’s first possession, Alstork pump faked on the left block and Loyola forward Aundre Jackson leapt off his feet, leaving the talented scorer with an easy layup. After that, Alstork’s opportunities were scarce.
Alstork did not even attempt a foul shot until the 12:58 mark of the second half. He then had a brief spurt where he drew fouls on consecutive possessions and made all four free throws, but Loyola (8-2) kept him off the stripe for the final 11 minutes.
As a team, Wright State (6-4) attempted 16 free throws to 60 field goals for a free throw rate of 26.7%, about 20 percentage points below their season average entering the game. The Raiders mustered one foul shot in the first 21 minutes as Loyola built a 39-28 lead.
Without his usual success at the foul line, Alstork struggled. After all, he is only a 39.5% field-goal shooter. That 86.5% free throw percentage is what propelled him into the nation’s top echelon of scorers early in the season. Alstork can also be a lethal 3-point threat coming in at 39.6%, but Loyola’s top 100 perimeter defense limited him to 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Alstork has endured worse nights from the field. He posted a goose egg against North Dakota, going 0-of-9 on field goals. Even so, he reached double figures in that game thanks to 10-of-11 shooting at the foul line.
For Loyola, forcing Alstork into 4-of-15 shooting from the field was only half the battle.
“He goes in there and drives and throws his body into you,” Custer said. “They gave him some calls in the second half, so he did get to the line some. But we practiced all week on keeping our hands out, playing with our feet and having our hands high when he went up for shots. I think we did a pretty good job of doing that most of the game.”