Feb. 23, 2013
CHICAGO - Christian Thomas poured in a career-best 31 points and also collected 11 rebounds for his sixth double double of the year, but Kent State (15-12) rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to record a 70-63 victory over Loyola University Chicago (14-14) this afternoon at Gentile Arena. Thomas' 31 points are the most by a Rambler since Ben Averkamp totaled 31 in a win at Toledo on December 10, 2011.
"We did a lot of what we wanted to do offensively, but when we got up by 11, we started to defend like we were going to outscore them," Loyola head coach Porter Moser said. "Effort was not an issue because our guys played their tails off. We just have some things we need to clean up."
Jordan Hicks scored six straight points to cap Loyola's game-opening 20-9 run, which also featured nine points from Thomas, who converted 8 of 11 shots from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Kent State slowly began its climb back into the game when Kris Brewer drilled a three-pointer to spark a 29-13 run that gave the Golden Flashes a 38-33 lead at the half.
Loyola got within four points when Thomas drained a pair of foul shots with a 15:41 remaining in the game, but Kent State responded by running off seven straight points, the last two coming on a dunk by Mark Henniger, as the Flashes extended their lead to 49-38.
The Ramblers closed the gap to six points on a few occasions, and when Thomas hit a pair of free throws with 1:53 left to play to make it 64-58, the Ramblers were holding out hopes for another second-half comeback. However, a Chris Evans layup followed by free throws from Brewer and Evans pushed the KSU advantage back to double digits.
Loyola made things interesting in the final 30 seconds, nearly completing a miraculous comeback. Three free throws by Thomas and a layup by Joe Crisman cut the KSU lead to 68-63 with 12 seconds showing on the clock, but after a turnover by the Golden Flashes, Loyola was unable to connect on a three-pointer and Randal Holt added two free throws to provide the final score.
Thomas shattered his previous career high by eight points and corralled 11 rebounds for his sixth double double of the year. Devon Turk pitched in 10 points and Hicks added eight points and seven boards for the Ramblers, who shot just 37 percent from the field in the second half after knocking down 54 percent of their attempts in the first period.
Evans led Kent State with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Loyola plays its final road game of the regular season when it visits Detroit on Tuesday (Feb. 26).