UIC and Loyola (Chi.) are used to seeing each other, but Saturday marks the first time since the 1993-94 season that these two schools meet in a non-conference game.
Loyola, which spent 34 seasons in the Horizon League and its precursors, the Midwestern City Conference and Midwestern Collegiate Conference, departed for the Missouri Valley Conference this season.
But the Ramblers and the Flames are keeping the Chicago rivalry alive with a matchup this weekend at Gentile Arena.
UIC (3-5) is coming off a close loss to Southern Methodist at the UIC Pavilion on Wednesday. The Flames stuck around until the final minutes but failed to execute late, allowing a 73-65 defeat.
Senior point guard Kelsey Barlow, a Purdue transfer, had his second straight phenomenal outing. Barlow, who had scored a career-high 38 points against Wagner two games ago, recorded 31 points against the Mustangs. It was the first time a Flame recorded consecutive 30-point games since Sherell Ford in Feb. 1995.
Its last time out, Loyola (3-5) was defeated in yet another close game.
On Sunday, the Ramblers traveled to Mississippi State and lost in overtime, 65-64. It was their third straight game decided by one possession, their second overtime game of the season, and their seventh game decided by six points or fewer.
The Flames, who were dismantled by Southern Methodist in the frontcourt, will have to deal with versatile, sophomore forward Matt O’Leary on Saturday. O’Leary enters averaging 7.3 points, four rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He is also shooting at 50% from the field.
Aside from O’Leary, the Ramblers do not have much size on their front line, allowing opponents to convert more than 53% of their three-pointers this season.
UIC senior forward Jordan Harks, a Central Arkansas transfer, and sophomore forward Jake Wiegand should both be able to use that to their advantage. Wiegand, who struggled against the Mustangs, has been much more successful in road games, averaging 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds.
In the backcourt, Loyola will of course have its hands full with Barlow, who is now No. 5 in the Horizon League in scoring and No. 3 in assists.
Junior guard Marc Brown has been quiet lately, but he has three 20-point or better performances already this season, and sophomore guard Gabe Snider is emerging as a scoring threat. Snider posted a career-high 11 points against San Diego last week, and he has scored eight points in each of the last two games.
Loyola has the pieces to match UIC in the backcourt.
Freshman Milton Doyle has been on a tear to start his collegiate career, averaging 14.4 points and 2.9 assists. He is coming off a 22-point outing against Mississippi State, his third game with more than 20 points this season (Tennessee Tech 11/8, Rockhurst 11/19).
Sophomore guard Jeff White is averaging 12.8 points and ranks No. 4 in the MVC in true shooting percentage, and Devon Turk has continued his excellence as a three-point specialist.
Junior Christian Thomas, a guard/forward hybrid at 6’5″, enters Saturday averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 boards. He has recorded two double-doubles this season.
Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. CT.
The Catch and Shoot: Loyola 74, UIC 70
KenPom: Loyola 71, UIC 65
Sagarin: Loyola by 4.
Vegas: Loyola by 5 1/2
Other Chicago action this weekend:
—DePaul (4-3) hosts Arizona State (7-2) on Friday night. The Blue Demons defeated Oregon State on Sunday, and the Sun Devils are coming off a disappointing, sixth-place finish at The Wooden Legacy.
—Northwestern (4-5) hosts Western Michigan (5-2) on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats’ struggling frontcourt will have its hands full with 6’11” center Shayne Whittington, who is averaging 16.6 points and 11.2 rebounds.
—Illinois (7-1) picked up its first loss of the season at Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Fighting Illini look to bounce back at Auburn (4-2) on Sunday afternoon.
—Illinois State (4-4) has the pleasure of hosting 25th-ranked Dayton (7-1) on Saturday night. The Redbirds are looking for their fourth straight win.
—Eastern Illinois (3-5) hosts Indiana State (5-2), one of the nation’s top mid-majors on Saturday. Sycamore point guard Jake Odum enters the game averaging 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists.
—Southern Illinois (2-6) returns home for the first time since November 21 to host Western Kentucky (4-3) on Saturday.
—SIU-Edwardsville (2-6) will look for its second straight win Saturday against Central Michigan (5-3).
—Chicago State (3-5) hosts Wisconsin-Parkside on Saturday afternoon.
—Western Illinois (3-4) looks to get back to .500 against Grace Bible College on Saturday night.
All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.