By Kevin Sweeney
For the first ten minutes and change, it looked like more of the same for Loyola. Coming off a stunning defeat at the hands of Furman on Friday night in which the Ramblers mustered just 58 total points, The Ramblers looked stagnant on offense once again, and Niagara pulled out to an early 22-14 lead.
A quick timeout by Porter Moser changed things.
From that point, Loyola went on a game-defining 37-9 run spanning into the early stages of the second half, pulling away for a 75-62 victory Wednesday night at Gentile Arena in a campus game played as part of the Fort Myers Tip-Off.
Cameron Krutwig led the way for Loyola (2-1) with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks while shooting a perfect 7-7 from the field. In three games this season, Krutwig is now 15-15 from the field, using his soft touch around the basket to finish at the rim. The sophomore from Algonquin, IL is clearly in better shape than he was last season, and it showed tonight.
“I hope you didn’t say that to him,” Moser said when Krutwig’s shooting start was first mentioned postgame. “He’s taking good shots, we’ve got to continue to get him the ball. It was a total emphasis to start the second half.”
Krutwig, who was unaware of the streak, scored eight points in the first 3:14 of the second half as the Ramblers continued to feed their star big man.
“After Friday, all the players and all the coaches sat back, looked themselves in the mirror, and took accountability,” Krutwig said. “A lot of good stuff happens when I get the ball. The coaches have been preaching it, and we just made it a focal point in the offense.”
The Ramblers put four players in double figures in Krutwig, Marques Townes, Aher Uguak, and Clayton Custer. Custer’s was a quiet 14 points though, as he dealt with foul trouble for much of the night.
After a slow start, Uguak shined as the game went on. The uber-athletic sophomore transfer from New Mexico posted 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 6-9 shooting. It was by far his best game in a Rambler uniform after shooting just 5-14 from the field against Furman.
“I met with Aher this week…I said ‘You have to have fun, you gotta smile!’” Moser said, noting that Uguak had sat out much of the last 2 seasons. “Let your defense and all the little things dictate everything.”
Those “little things” provided a big spark early in the second half, when Uguak tipped out a Krutwig free throw miss, leading to a Krutwig bucket and a big roar from an early-arriving Rambler student section. However, Gentile Arena never got louder than after Uguak threw down a thunderous jam in transition, showing off the athleticism that made him such a highly-touted prospect out of high school.
Loyola held Niagara’s “Big 3” of James Towns, Keleaf Tate, and Marvin Prochet to just 13-42 shooting. The Purple Eagles as a whole shot just 29% from the field in the game. Towns led the charge for Niagara (1-1) with 19 points and 7 rebounds, while Prochet posted his second consecutive double-double to begin the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Niagara tried to make a comeback push late in the second half with a 12-0 run that cut the Rambler lead to 10 after falling behind by 22, but a pair of buckets by Krutwig and Townes quickly put the game away.
Moser’s club returns to action Friday night when they take on Grambling State before heading to Fort Myers to take on Richmond and either Boston College or Wyoming. Niagara continues their convoy out west to Laramie for a Friday night tilt with Wyoming.