CHICAGO — In a matchup between the most recently departed Missouri Valley program and the conference’s newest member Saturday, Loyola knocked off Creighton 68-65 at Gentile Arena.
Loyola replaced Creighton in the MVC a little over two years ago, making this one of the more anticipated non-conference games in recent memory for the Ramblers.
Here’s a breakdown of what happened in the Loyola victory:
—Maybe conference realignment didn’t hurt the MVC after all. At least that’s the statement Loyola made Saturday.
After falling behind by 14 points early, Creighton came back and hung with Loyola all game. Aside from Creighton’s big run at the end of the first half, Loyola looked like the more dominant team overall.
The Ramblers’ defense held Creighton’s high-powered offense to 0.97 points per possession. Creighton entered scoring 1.10 points per possession, adjusted for strength of schedule on kenpom.com.
Basketball fans and analysts around the Valley questioned when, if ever, Loyola would fully replace what Creighton had brought to the conference. Just three years after conference realignment, it appears the Ramblers and the Bluejays are at least on comparable levels.
Creighton losing to the team that replaced them in the Missouri Valley is a beautiful case of poetic justice.
— matt eichinger (@mjeichinger) December 5, 2015
—Loyola had its pep back. After some sluggish performances at the Great Alaska Shootout last week, the Ramblers brought energy in front of its largest home crowd this season.
This team has talent, but not a surplus of it. It’s also still an undersized group.
Several of Loyola’s wins last season came just from playing harder than evenly matched or slightly better opponents, and the Ramblers need that energy again to be successful this season.
—Milton Doyle cleaned up his game. The junior guard came in averaging nearly six turnovers per contest against Division I opponents. In each of Loyola’s two losses at the Great Alaska Shootout, he posted a 78 offensive rating.
On Saturday, Doyle was the best player on the floor. The former MVC Newcomer of the Year flirted with a triple-double, recording 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
He turned the ball over twice Saturday, and one was a dubious offensive foul late in the first half.
—Tyson Smith had a breakout performance, and it came at a huge time. The junior college transfer posted 11 points off the bench, in addition to being voted Loyola’s funniest player by his teammates during a timeout video.
Smith drilled three 3-pointers, including back-to-back treys in the first half as Loyola built a double-digit lead. Early in the second half, he, along with sophomore hybrid Donte Ingram, gave the Ramblers’ offense a huge lift when Doyle went to the bench with three fouls.
Coach Porter Moser loves what Smith brings to the table as a stronger guard who can make shots, and the 6-foot-2 sophomore showed Saturday why he has earned his coach’s praise.
—For the Big East fans out there, watch out for Creighton freshman Khyri Thomas. Thomas tore up Loyola for a career-high 22 points, and he scored his points in a variety of ways.
He knocked in a couple of tough layups, including one that should have been a three-point play as the slap on his wrist was audible. He also shot 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, and 9-of-10 overall.
Thomas missed two crucial free throws that could have tied the game with 11.8 seconds left, but Creighton would not have been in a position to tie without
This was Thomas’ third game already with at least 18 points.