In what was easily the biggest non-conference win in coach Porter Moser‘s four season at Loyola, the Ramblers blew past Texas Tech on Monday at the Las Vegas Classic. The Ramblers defeated the Red Raiders 62-44 and led the entire second half.
“This is a huge win for our program,” said freshman forward Jay Knuth, who came off the bench for a team-high 15 pints. “Hard work paid off. Credit our scouting staff and our coaching staff for prepping us. We defended them well. We were fortunate to get the bonus real early and I got fortunate to get to the line that much.”
After falling behind 11-7 eight minutes into the game, Loyola (9-2) fought back to take a 12-11 lead on a pair of free throws from junior guard Earl Peterson. Those foul shots were part of a 10-0 run that gave the Ramblers a 17-11 lead they would not relinquish.
The Ramblers took a 28-19 lead into halftime as freshman guard Ben Richardson hit one of his three 3-pointers of the night. Richardson finished with nine points off the bench.
Loyola, and Knuth in particular, lived at the foul line in the second half. The Ramblers as a team made 26 trips to the charity stripe, and Knuth on his own made 12 of those trips. They reached the bonus in the second half with 14:12 remaining.
Knuth finished the game with a team-high 15 points off the bench despite shooting just 1-for-4 from the field. He shot 13-for-14 at the foul line. Knuth entered Monday averaging 2.5 points.
Altogether, Loyola shot 23-for-30 (76.7%) at the stripe.
Loyola’s lead reached as many as 22 points in the second half despite a mediocre performance from leading scorer Milton Doyle. Doyle who missed Loyola’s last game with an ankle injury, returned to the lineup but played just 23 minutes after facing some foul trouble. He finished with just five points, two rebounds and three assists.
Loyola’s starting lineup as a whole was not a huge factor Monday. Forwards Christian Thomas and Montel James played 11 and 13 minutes, respectively. The Ramblers’ two leaders in minutes were bench players Peterson and freshman Donte Ingram, who had three points and six rebounds.
In addition to Ingram grabbing six boards, Knuth and junior guard Devon Turk also had six apiece. Junior guard Jeff White grabbed four rebounds.
That was crucial for the Ramblers, who have very little size but out-rebounded the Red Raiders 39-29.
“We’re not going to outsize anybody,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “We have to block out people. We have to out-energy and I thought our guys did a great job believing we could win. I was really proud of our guys.”
The bench produced 39 of Loyola’s 62 points.
Texas Tech’s offense struggled all night. The Red Raiders shot 0-for-21 from 3-point range and could not convert on free throws either at 10-for-18 (55.6%).
“They made us take the outside shot,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “(Loyola) was quicker to the ball. Their ability to get loose balls helped them. We passed up some open looks and took some tougher shots.”
Freshman guard Justin Gray led Texas Tech (9-2) with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Loyola faces Boise State on Tuesday night in the Las Vegas Classic championship game. The Ramblers tip off at 10:30 CT, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.