By Kevin Sweeney
Loyola had a lot of questions to answer when it lost to Coppin State to open a three-game homestand a week ago yesterday.
For now, those questions have been answered.
The Ramblers churned out an incredibly efficient game on the offensive end and locked down on defense to claim an 85-62 win over IUPUI Wednesday night at Gentile Arena. Lucas Williamson led the way for LUC with 22 points on 8-12 shooting in just 23 minutes of action.
The Ramblers entered the game shooting just 25% from downtown in the season’s first four games. Those issues were hardly evident tonight– Loyola hit five of their first seven threes and finished the night 9-16 from beyond the arc. Williamson led the charge from distance with four triples, and freshmen Paxson Wojcik and Marquise Kennedy each hit a a pair.
“We made some really good one-more passes– the extra pass,” head coach Porter Moser said. “16 assists, that’s who we are.”
IUPUI came out firing– namely Marcus Burk, the defending Horizon League Player of the Week who scored 17 points in the game’s first 13 minutes. That kept the Jaguars in it through much of the first half, even leading briefly in the game’s opening period. But a 9-3 half-closing run by the Ramblers seemed to swing momentum in favor of the home team as the half came to a close, highlighted by a buzzer-beating three by Kennedy. The speedy freshman blitzed his way down the floor, sent one man to the floor with a filthy crossover, and then drained the triple as time expired to earn the loudest applause of the day from the Rambler faithful. Moser said the shot gave his team a “jolt” as they headed to the locker room.
That jolt certainly manifested itself in a strong start to the second half for the Ramblers, who opened the second half with an 8-2 spurt to take a 16-point lead at the half’s first media timeout. The Jaguars would never get within single digits again, with the Loyola lead ballooning as large as 30 down the stretch.
Coming into the season, the main question with this team was how they’d deal with the loss of Marques Townes and Clayton Custer in the backcourt. Offseason injuries to shooter Cooper Kaifes and highly-touted JUCO import Keith Clemons furthered those questions at guard, but Moser’s bunch got impressive production today from a pair of freshmen in Wojcik and Kennedy.
“They’re hungry to learn,” Moser said. “Their confidence is going up because they are getting more repetition.”
Wojcik in particular earned plenty of praise from his head coach after posting an efficient 10 point, 4 rebound, 3 assist, 3 steal performance.
“Paxson is continuing to give us a great lift off the bench,” Moser said. “He’s giving us intangible plays.
“He’s a freshman, he needs to get stronger and all that… but he stuck his nose in for four tough, contested rebounds. I love that.”
Burk led the way for IUPUI with 23 points. He was the only Jaguar in double figures. Byron Rimm’s club falls to 2-3 following a stunning win over South Florida last Wednesday.
The Ramblers head to the Cayman Islands next week to participate in the Cayman Islands Showcase. They’ll open with South Florida on Monday before playing three games in three days.