Loyola shows growth in late-game situations in win over SDSU

As monumental as Saturday’s win against Mountain West favorite San Diego State was, Loyola had a chance for an even bigger victory one week earlier when facing NC State on the road. The Ramblers lost a double-digit lead and fell 79-77 in a game that came down to the final possession.

Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com
Loyola guard Clayton Custer scored all 10 of his points in the second half as the Ramblers held off San Diego State. (Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com)

The same thing nearly happened against San Diego State. The Ramblers opened up a 49-39 lead early in the second half, but the Aztecs chipped away and finally took a 54-53 lead when Trey Kell drained a 3-pointer with 5:30 left.

“Just being in that game with NC State and just having that experience early in the season, they came back, they made their run, now we’ll go right back at them,” junior guard Clayton Custer said. “We just kept moving the ball, kept playing the way we play. We didn’t panic.”

Loyola forward Aundre Jackson came right back with a layup to give Loyola the lead, and this time the Ramblers stayed in front for good in a 65-59 victory.

“The thing that I like most about this team,” coach Porter Moser said, “is the resiliency of having a 10 point lead, losing it, and then never faltering and coming back and making our own run. That’s a sign of a good team. And we’ve done that.”

Against NC State, Loyola committed four turnovers in the final four minutes. Against San Diego State, the Ramblers committed no turnovers in the final seven minutes and gave the ball away just seven times overall.

“You learn from games,” Moser said. “You try to get better.”

One such opportunity came up late in the game with Loyola leading 57-54 and under three minutes remaining. Junior forward Aundre Jackson received the ball in the post and awaited a double team. One possession earlier, Jackson passed over two defenders to an open Vlatko Granic for an easy layup.

This time, the double team never came. Jackson recognized the opportunity to take Pope off the dribble, and finished a reverse layup to bump Loyola’s lead to three points.

Earlier in the season, the junior college newcomer may have tried forcing a pass. Jackson finished with a game-high 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting. The one miss came on a blocked 3-point pointer with the shot clock winding down.

“I promise it was dropping,” Jackson said laughing if the shot had not been blocked.

To wrap up the upset, junior guard Ben Richardson hit two daggers, a runner with 49 seconds left and a layup off a steal with 20 seconds left that put Loyola ahead 63-56.

“We need to get better at closing games out, I think,” Richardson said. “But we did close it out.”

Other notes from Saturday’s game:

Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com
Loyola guard Bruno Skokna. (Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com)

—Freshman guard Bruno Skokna came off the bench to score 4 points and 6 rebounds, the latter of which was especially huge with junior forward Donte Ingram, the team’s leading rebounder, out with an MCL injury.

“The rebounds were the biggest things,” Moser said of Skokna’s performance. “You look at the six rebounds, and we needed those with Donte out.”

—With his scorching shooting performance, Jackson is now 5th in the nation with a 76.0 effective field-goal percentage. He leads the Missouri Valley in that category by nearly a 10-point margin (Illinois State guard Paris Lee, 66.7%).

—Senior guard Milton Doyle had an average outing with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting along with two assists. But he hit an NBA range three at the first-half buzzer to give Loyola a 35-33 lead heading into the locker room.

—Loyola has now won 18 of its last 19 non-conference home games. The only loss during that stretch was to Cleveland State last December.

—Despite ranking in the top 25 nationally in effective field-goal percentage and turnover rate, Loyola has only the nation’s 199th-most efficient offense in the nation, according to KenPom stats. That’s the result of the nation’s third-worst offensive rebounding rate at 18.5% and 63.6% free throw shooting, which also ranks near the bottom of Division I.

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.

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