By Kevin Sweeney
Coming off a blowout defeat to Boise State on Tuesday night for its first loss of the season, one had to wonder how Loyola would come out in a tough home test against UIC.
Let’s just say the Ramblers passed with flying colors.
Loyola used a 23-2 run in the middle of the first half to grab a 20+ point lead they would never come close to relinquishing to claim a 85-61 victory over crosstown and former Horizon League rival UIC Sunday afternoon at Gentile Arena. Senior Aundre Jackson led all scorers with 23 points on 10-11 shooting in just 21 minutes of action for the Ramblers, who move to 8-1 on the season.
UIC was without sophomore point guard Tarkus Ferguson after it was announced he had suffered a stress fracture in his foot, and the Flames never looked comfortable without their floor general. 13 first half turnovers led to 16 Rambler points. UIC head coach Steve McClain took 3 of his 4 available timeouts in the first half, as he did everything he could to try to get his team back on track. But the Ramblers were on a roll and could not be stopped.
It starts off with our defense,” freshman guard Lucas Williamson said. “When we are getting stops and then we go down and hit shots, then we feel unstoppable.”
It was promising sign after promising sign for the Ramblers throughout the contest, with the continued emergence of a pair of freshmen in center Cameron Krutwig and guard Lucas Williamson. Krutwig was a steadying force, stuffing the stat sheet with 9 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. It was his passing ability that was most impressive, as he made several great passes to set up open looks for his teammates.
“He’s a phenomenal passer for any position, Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. “He has great anticipation, great vision.”
Moser and his team were visibly excited by the turnout for the game, as the Ramblers had a season-high 3,024 in attendance. That included a large student turnout that was lined up to get in an hour before tip-off.
“I can’t tell the students and everybody how grateful I am that they’ve come and I want them to come back,” Moser said. “It’s a different energy when it’s full in there [Gentile Arena].”
For UIC, it’s the fourth straight loss, as the Flames fall to 2-5 on the season. Marcus Ottey led the way with 16 points on 6-9 from the field.
Loyola also got 14 points from Williamson and 10 points from Clayton Custer. Highly-touted JUCO product Adarius Avery made his season debut with an impressive 7 points and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes. The Ramblers travel to Gainesville to take on #6 Florida on Wednesday night.