CHICAGO — After starting slow for the second straight game Saturday, this time Loyola stormed back from 18 points down behind junior guard Milton Doyle for a 69-62 victory against Toledo.
In a brutal first half, Loyola shot 33.3 percent from the field with 13 turnovers. Even in a 75-51 loss at New Mexico on Tuesday, the Ramblers only had 10 giveaways for the entire game.
Eight of those turnovers Saturday came from Doyle.
“He was having one of those tough nights,” coach Porter Moser said. “But really good players stay in the moment, stay confident in their abilities.”
Although Doyle struggled taking care of the ball, his shot was on all night. He turned the ball over only once in the second half and finished with a team-high 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
The 6-foot-4 guard also shot 6-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“That’s what great players do — they don’t let one part of their game dictate the rest,” Moser said. “I loved how he just put it behind him. … I’m just proud that he stayed confident, he stayed in the moment, he stayed defensive. He did other things to help us and then he got his shot going.”
Still, Moser did not let his star guard’s turnovers slide by.
“This is gonna be a season-high for him,” he said. “It better be.”
As Toledo built its first-half lead, center Nathan Boothe burned Loyola time and time again. The senior center displayed a few post moves and used his length to shoot over the top of Ramblers defenders with his soft touch.
“It’s how I felt with game planning for (former Northern Iowa forward and MVC Player of the Year) Seth Tuttle,” Moser said of Boothe. “You’ve got a big who can shoot it, he can score it one-on-one on anybody, and he’s an elite passer. Nathan Boothe is literally the hardest post player that we’ve had to prepare and coach against. Seth Tuttle and him. That’s how much respect I’ve got for him.”
Boothe finished with 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting along with 11 rebounds. He got help from junior guard Jonathan Williams to build a 39-24 halftime lead. Williams had 11 points in the first half with 3-of-3 shooting from long range, but scored only four points in the second half on 2-of-8 shooting.
Moser said he was in Doyle’s ear throughout the first half and during halftime, telling him to remain confident. Even when Doyle picked up his third foul early in the second half, Moser told his leading scorer to prepare to sub in back in quickly.
But Doyle said his coach had already instilled in him a mindset to put the difficult first half behind him.
“The game starts over in the second half,” Doyle said.
While Doyle carried the team scoring-wise, senior forward Montel James started the comeback on the second half’s opening possession.
James’ one-handed dunk over Boothe gave the Ramblers a whole new energy. He got fouled in the process and made the free throw, quickly cutting Toledo’s to 15 points.
“One little thing like that can get the team going at any time,” said James, who recorded 11 points and nine rebounds. “I just tried to turn the tide.”
Turning the tide was a key development for the Ramblers because they failed to do so Tuesday at New Mexico. The slow start snowballed and Loyola never came close to snagging a win Albuquerque.
“We let our shooting woes (against New Mexico) dictate the rest of our game,” Moser said. “Today, they turned it.”
Senior guard Earl Peterson added 18 points for the Ramblers, shooting 10-of-15 at the foul line. Senior sharpshooter Devon Turk struggled but made two key 3-pointers, his only 6 points of the game, during the second-half comeback.
Loyola returns to action next week at the Great Alaska Shootout.