CHICAGO — Loyola held off Northern Iowa in a 59-56 thriller Wednesday at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers have now completed a sweep of the Panthers, who are 3-0 against nationally ranked teams this season.
Northern Iowa (16-12, 8-7 MVC) frustrated Montel James offensively, but the Loyola forward made a huge impact defensively and on the boards. The Panthers double teamed James on the dribble, forcing the big man into a career-worst six turnovers. James still got nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, but they did not come easy.
However, James grabbed eight rebounds, all defensive, as Loyola (13-14, 6-9 MVC) held Northern Iowa to a 22.5 offensive rebounding percentage. His active defense caused several missed shots at the rim. Northern Iowa’s front court trio combined for eight points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of blocks and steals. James altered enough shots and passes to be this game’s defensive MVP.
A fantastic defensive effort on Wes Washpun. All of Loyola’s guards defended Washpun at some point, and they generally did a fine job keeping the quick point guard from getting downhill toward the basket.
In a pair of end-of-clock situations, Loyola prevented Washpun from even getting a shot off. One occurred early in the first half on a shot clock violation while the second occurred at the halftime buzzer.
Washpun finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting, although he also had five assists and four steals.
Is Milton Doyle back? Three days after being the driving force in Loyola’s comeback against Evansville, Doyle led Loyola with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He also had three steals.
Moser said he felt Doyle had a fire in eyes during crunch time against Evansville. This time, Doyle showed that fire for all of his 24 minutes on the floor, and it was a difference maker.
Donte Ingram is finding his groove. The 6-foot-6 sophomore hit a few big shots, including a 3-pointer to give Loyola a lead early in the second half and a runner that shortened Northern Iowa’s lead to 50-49 with 3:03 remaining.
Ingram finished with 10 points and is now averaging 9.4 in the last nine games.