By Kevin Sweeney
A 22-point lead for Loyola was quickly vanishing, and the Ramblers were without starting guard Ben Richardson.
“Adversity. You could feel it, you could cut it in the arena,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “I loved how we answered it coming out of that.”
Moser had good reason to be pleased with his club’s performance, as Loyola held off a hard-charging Samford rally and pulled away late to claim an 86-67 victory Sunday afternoon at Gentile Arena in Chicago. Clayton Custer led the way with 18 points and a career-high 9 assists without a turnover for the Ramblers.
“For Clayton Custer to play that many minutes against that style, against quick guards, and have 9 assists and no turnovers, that’s really, really difficult to do,” Moser said.
Loyola was in control early on, leading for nearly 17 of the 20 first-half minutes and using a 23-8 half-closing run to turn a 19-18 deficit into a 41-27 lead at the break.
Early in the second, it appeared the game was headed towards a blowout, as the Ramblers exploded out of the gates with a 13-5 spurt capped by a triple by Custer to claim a 22-point lead less than 5 minutes into the second half. However, Samford wouldn’t go away easily, amping up the pressure all 94 feet and getting Loyola out of rhythm. It was at that point when you could really feel the absense of Richardson, who is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. That 22 point edge slipped down to just 8 with under 10 minutes to play in the ballgame, but the Ramblers kept their composure and held off the hard-charging Bulldogs.
“It just showed our togetherness and our poise to finish games,” redshirt junior guard Marques Townes said. “It was good to see that we finally finished out a game strong.”
Samford kept fighting behind 13 second half points from Christen Cunningham, but the Ramblers were able to pull away late. A monster slam by sophomore guard Cameron Satterwhite seemed to put a close to any comeback hopes the Bulldogs had.
Townes had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists for the Ramblers, who move to 4-0 on the season. Donte Ingram added 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Samford falls to 1-3. Cunningham finished with 17 points and 5 assists on 7-10 shooting, while leading scorer Demetrius Denzel-Dyson had a quiet 14 points.
The game was a campus site game played as part of the Savannah Invitational.