Jan. 7, 2013
LOYOLA (10-4, 1-1) at GREEN BAY (6-9, 0-2)
January 9, 2013 - 7 p.m. CST
Green Bay, Wis. - Resch Center
Radio: www.loyolaramblers.com - John Fitzgerald (play-by-play); Stephond Robinson (analyst)
Live Video: www.horizonleague.com
THE OPENING TIP
Loyola shoots for its fourth consecutive road win Wednesday night when it visits Green Bay, a place it hasn't won since 2007. The Ramblers have not captured four straight road wins since claiming five consecutive contests away from Rogers Park during the 2006-07 season.
A victory over the Phoenix would give the Ramblers their first 2-1 start to Horizon League play since 2009-10. Only twice in the last eight seasons (2009-10, 2006-07) has Loyola won two of its first three League contests.
The Ramblers are coming off their first consecutive winning months since going 4-1 in November and 7-1 in December 2009.
With victories over Mississippi State and DePaul to its credit this year, Loyola has recorded at least two wins over BCS conference teams for the first time since the 1991-92 season when the Maroon and Gold prevailed over Northwestern and Purdue.
Loyola's 16-player roster has accumulated only 16 combined years of post-high school basketball experience tying it with Horizon League rival Wright State as the sixth-youngest team in NCAA Division I for 2012-13.
Loyola has not prevailed in each of its first two Horizon League road games since 2001-02 when it toppled Milwaukee and Green Bay on its way to beginning conference play with a 6-0 mark.
In addition to having already surpassed their win total from a year ago (7), at 10-4, the Ramblers are off to their best start since opening the 2009-10 campaign with an 11-3 ledger.
Through games of January 5, only four teams had already experienced a bigger improvement in the win column than Loyola (+3) - Bryant (+6), Towson (+5), Canisius (+4), and Santa Clara (+4).
ABOUT THE PHOENIX
Picked to finish third in the Horizon League Preseason Poll, Green Bay has dropped its first two conference contests and is 3-6 in its last nine games overall. Led by sophomore guard and Chicago native Keifer Sykes, who averages 16.5 ppg and 3.7 apg, the Phoenix has posted a 5-1 record at the Resch Center this season, with the only loss coming to Southern Illinois (72-70) on December 15. Green Bay is the top shooting team from the free throw line in Horizon League play, knocking down 76.2 percent (247 for 324) of its charity tosses.
The Ramblers and Phoenix are meeting for the 40th time in a series that traces its roots to 1995 when Green Bay joined the Horizon League, then known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Loyola has dropped six of the last seven games versus Green Bay and the Ramblers have not left Titletown in good spirits since a 69-52 victory on February 10, 2007. Although Loyola has lost five straight to the Phoenix at the Resch Center, it went 4-2 against the Phoenix in Green Bay from 2002-07. At the Resch Center last December, the Ramblers managed only 12 first-half points and trailed by as many as 23 in the second period before closing within seven on a pair of occasions in the final two minutes but ultimately came up short in a 57-47 defeat. Ben Averkamp (14) and Walt Gibler (18) combined for 32 of Loyola's 47 points.
Coaches constantly preach that a conference opener is just one game in a long season, but that contest has proven to mean so much more to Loyola in recent history. In fact, four of the last five times in which it has opened Horizon League play with a win, Loyola has finished tied for fourth or better. On the flip side, the last five times the Ramblers have started conference action on the wrong side of the ledger, they have never finished higher than eighth in the final Horizon League standings. Loyola has not finished higher than eighth in conference play since 2006-07 when it posted a 10-6 mark and placed third.
With a pair of free throws at the 19:18 mark of the second half the season opener against Toledo, senior forward Ben Averkamp became the 39th player in Loyola history to score 1,000 points. Now 23rd on the school's career scoring chart with 1,211 points, the 6-foot-8 Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick needs 11 points to tie former NBA Draft pick LaRue Martin for 22nd all-time with 1,222 points. In the Ramblers' victory versus Maryland-Eastern Shore on November 18, Averkamp collected his 500th career rebound making him just the 19th player in Loyola history, and the second in as many seasons, to top the 1,000-point and 500-rebound marks for his career. Last season, Walt Gibler joined that exclusive club.
A victory at Chicago State on January 20 would give the Ramblers 10 regular-season wins versus non-conference opponents for just the fifth time in school history and the first since 2006-07. In 1979-80, the Ramblers recorded 13 regular-season victories against non-conference foes.
Loyola is once again receiving votes for the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 Poll this week. The Ramblers have inched closer to the Top 25, totaling 30 points in the latest poll released on January 7.
GETTING IT DONE WITH DEFENSE
An old adage states that defense wins championships and if that proves to be true, the Ramblers should find themselves in the thick of the Horizon League race this winter. Under second-year head coach Porter Moser, Loyola has allowed only 52.0 ppg in its 17 victories, while also limiting opponents to 37 percent (332 for 906) shooting from the field and 26 percent (72 for 272) from beyond the arc. The Ramblers have held the opposition under 50 points on nine occasions under Moser. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Loyola's defense has surrendered 55 points or less on 15 occasions after doing so just 15 times in the previous three seasons combined. Through games of January 6, Loyola ranked 34th in the nation in scoring defense at 58.3 ppg, and during its current four-game winning streak, has surrendered only 53.8 ppg and held teams to 39 percent (83 for 213) accuracy from the field and a paltry 24 percent (12 for 50) from long range.
TURK'S A TRIPLE THREAT
Freshman Devon Turk has given the Ramblers a bona fide three-point shooting threat, something that was sorely missing last season. The first true freshman to connect for at least one three-pointer in each of his first 10 games as a Rambler, the 6-foot-4 guard had his streak snapped when he was held without a trey at Saint Peter's on December 22, but he has knocked down two triples in each of the last three games. Turk has provided instant offense off the bench and ranks second among Horizon League freshmen with 8.4 ppg. Over the last seven games, the Houston native is pitching in 11.7 ppg and shooting 46 percent (26 for 56) from the field, including 49 percent (18 for 37) from long distance. Turk ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal percentage (.467) and he torched Mississippi State for a career-best 21 points, 18 of which came in the first half, for the highest-scoring output by a Loyola true freshman since Jordan Hicks tallied 23 points at Butler on February 15, 2009. The rookie has been at his best against BCS conference teams, averaging 12.5 ppg and hitting 57 percent (12 for 21) of his three-point tries. A sure sign of his ability to score in bunches can be found in Turk's point production versus his minutes played. His 21-point effort against Mississippi State came in only 24 minutes of action and he also had 19 points in 24 minutes versus Furman, and 10 points in 11 minutes at DePaul.
One year removed from shooting only 31 percent from three-point range and not having a single player knock down more than 26 tries from beyond the arc, Loyola is leading the Horizon League in three-point field goal percentage (.360). Should the Ramblers be able to shoot that effectively for the remainder of the season, they will challenge the school record of .374 set during the 1996-97 campaign. Two years ago, Loyola led the Horizon League by draining 36.2 percent of its triple tries. Turk has already dialed long distance 28 times this season.
THE FORECAST CALLS FOR PAYNE
After having not played in a college game in nearly two years, Cully Payne needed some time to shake off the rust, but now that the season is halfway complete, he has proven to be a major addition to Porter Moser's roster. A transfer from the University of Iowa who was a Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten pick in 2009-10, the junior point guard has averaged 11.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.9 apg, and 1.3 spg, while shooting 39 percent (30 for 77) from the field, and 40 percent (17 for 43) from long distance over the last nine games. In his first five contests this season, Payne managed 4.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, and 0.6 spg, and connected on only 20 percent (5 for 25) of his field goal attempts, including just 8 percent (1 for 12) from beyond the arc. In a 69-61 victory over DePaul, the team's first win against the Blue Demons since 1989, Payne contributed 24 points, one shy of his career high set while playing for the Hawkeyes, and added four rebounds, four assists, and a pair of steals. Prior to that outburst, he had accounted for only 28 points in the previous four games combined. His 24 points against DePaul are the most by a Rambler guard since Geoff McCammon lit up Youngstown State for 27 points on January 27, 2011. A starter in all 51 of his career appearances, Payne was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Week thanks to his efforts against DePaul, and the Ramblers are now 9-2 this season when he scores six or more points and 4-1 when he scores in double digits. He is registering 18.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.5 apg, and 2.0 spg, while shooting 58 percent (11 for 19) from the field and 50 percent (6 for 12) from long distance, in the last pair of road games. Payne has also converted 11 of his last 12 (.917) attempts from the foul line and is posting 16.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 1.3 spg in the last three outings.
CULLY FOR COUSY
Cully Payne is one of over 80 candidates named to the watch list for the 2013 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award, which recognizes the top point guard in college basketball. Payne is part of a watch list that will initially be pared down to 20 candidates in early January with the winner to be announced at the NCAA Men's Final Four in Atlanta. Payne is one of three Horizon League point guards named to the watch list, along with Ray McCallum (Detroit) and Kendrick Perry (Youngstown State).
BEN AT WORK
A year ago, Ben Averkamp emerged as one of the top players in the conference and this season his name should be in the discussion for Horizon League Player of the Year. The senior captain has embraced the role of leader for a young team that has already surpassed its win total from last season. Earlier this season, the 6-foot-8 forward was named to the USF Invitational All-Tournament Team after putting up 20.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, and 2.0 bpg in three games. One of only two players to rank among the top five in the Horizon League in both scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg), the Germantown, Wis., native has been a staple in the Loyola lineup, earning a starting nod in 81 of his last 82 appearances. An inside-outside threat, Averkamp connected for four three-point field goals en route to 25 points at No. 19 Michigan State last month and his 26 treys tied for the team lead a year ago. Although he has struggled with his shot the last few games, Averkamp has put up 17.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 3.0 bpg, and 1.0 spg, while shooting 42 percent (10 for 24) from the field in the last two contests after managing 10.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 bpg, and 1.3 spg, and connecting on 27 percent (7 for 26) of his field goal tries in the previous three games. In his last three games against Green Bay, Averkamp is recording 19.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 bpg, and 1.3 spg, and on February 23 last year, he totaled 26 points and 10 boards against the Phoenix at Gentile Arena. Despite failing to score 20 or more points in his first 69 appearances as a Rambler, Averkamp has topped the 20-point plateau 13 times in his last 34 outings. He has scored in double figures in 12 consecutive road games versus Horizon League teams.
MAKING THE GRADE
In addition to his exploits on the hardwood, Averkamp also is an exceptional student and campus leader who defines the term "student-athlete." In November, the senior forward was named one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to the NCAA Division I senior with notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, character, classroom and competition. Among the select group of individuals on that list are Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Drew Crawford (Northwestern), C.J. McCollum (Lehigh), Brandon Paul (Illinois) and Miles Plumlee (Duke), among others. In addition to being a Capital One Academic All-District V selection last year, Averkamp also was named to the Horizon League Men's Basketball All-Academic Team, National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honors Court, I-AAA Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team, National Jesuit Men's Basketball All-Academic Team, and Horizon League Academic Honor Roll.
Averkamp is one of 15 players in NCAA Division I who entered this season with a legitimate chance of topping 1,000 points, 750 rebounds, 100 assists, and 100 blocks for his career. Heading into the Green Bay game, he has recorded 1,211 points, 565 rebounds, 161 assists, and 142 blocks.
THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS
Arguably the most improved player on the roster, Christian Thomas has gotten back into his comfort zone now that he is no longer being asked to play on the perimeter. The sophomore forward has emerged to become a force at both ends of the floor, especially in the last five games, during which he is averaging 12.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and sinking 61 percent (25 for 41) of his field goal attempts. Over the last five outings, he has totaled 62 points after notching 41 points in the first nine games of the season. After coming close on a handful of previous occasions, the St. Louis, Mo., native recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds at DePaul on December 29. Three weeks ago, Thomas torched Mississippi State for 16 points (a career high) and six rebounds and in his last two games versus BCS conference opponents has put up 14.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg. A 57 percent (89 for 156) field goal shooter for his career, Thomas has contributed 8.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg, and hit 65 percent (31 for 46) of his shots in Loyola's 10 wins this year compared to 4.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 38 percent (6 for 16) shooting in its defeats. Thomas has been a thorn in Valparaiso's side and after last Wednesday's 14-point performance, he is tallying 11.7 ppg in three career meetings versus the Crusaders and 5.3 ppg against everyone else. In his career, Loyola has posted a 10-3 record when Thomas snags six or more rebounds.
NO ORDINARY JOE
Sophomore Joe Crisman is a player who does a lot of the little things that don't necessarily show up in the boxscore, but help the team win. One of the top defenders on the roster, last weekend, he held Kendrick Perry of Youngstown State (16.5 ppg) without a field goal for the first 27 minutes of the game, and on December 22, he limited Saint Peter's leading scorer Desi Washington (15.6 ppg) to 3 of 13 shooting and just seven points. Over the last four games, the Munster, Ind., native is averaging 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, and is shooting 56 percent (10 for 18) from the field, 40 percent (2 for 5) from beyond the arc, and 75 percent (6 for 8) from the charity stripe. He has not turned the ball over in the last two outings.
MAYBE IT IS HOW YOU START
Getting off to a strong start has paved the way to success for Loyola in recent history as it has gone 26-3 (.897) when leading at the half since the start of the 2010-11 season. Since the outset of the 2008-09 campaign, the Ramblers are 47-8 (.855) when leading at the break.
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY OF GREATNESS
The 2012-13 season marks the 50th anniversary of Loyola's 1963 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. To this day, Loyola remains the only school in the state of Illinois to have won a NCAA Division I men's basketball title. A season-long celebration is planned to commemorate the remarkable accomplishments of that team. Earlier this season, Loyola unveiled a website dedicated to the 1963 team, www.Loyola63.com. The site features articles, statistics, biographies, photos and video interviews with players from that historic squad.
In August, Loyola took a 13-day trip to Italy, where it played four games and visited a handful of cities (Rome, Florence, Venice, Como and Pisa). During that trip, the team soaked up the Italian culture, did plenty of sightseeing, and used the time to bond both on and off the court. The Ramblers posted a 3-1 ledger on their four-game trip to Italy and three newcomers - Jeff White (11.7 ppg), Matt O'Leary (11.3 ppg) and Devon Turk (11.3 ppg) - averaged double figures in scoring, while Cully Payne handed out 9.7 apg, three times hitting double digits in helpers.
PAYNE, PICKETT SIGN FOR 2013-14 SEASON
In November, Loyola announced that Quinten Payne and Jordan Pickett had signed National Letters of Intent to attend the University and play basketball starting next fall. Payne, the younger brother of Loyola junior guard Cully Payne, is a 6-foot-4 guard who averaged 16.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and 3.1 apg at St. Charles North High School in St. Charles, Ill., last season. A 6-foot-1 guard, Pickett put up gaudy numbers last year at University High School, going for 26.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, and 3.0 spg. Both players are ranked among the top 15 in their respective state by ESPN.
NOT WITHOUT A HITCH
Head athletic trainer Dr. Tom Hitcho has worked 1,031 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Wednesday's contest at Green Bay. Hired prior to the 1977-78 season, Hitcho has not missed a Rambler game in 36 years, witnessing 478 victories.
In its last two road games, Loyola is averaging 66.0 ppg and shooting 47.4 percent (47 for 99) from the field ... Over the last three road contests, the Ramblers are surrendering 54.7 ppg and limiting opponents to 39.4 percent (65 for 165) from the field and 21.2 percent (7 for 33) from beyond the arc.
RAMBLERS ON THE RADIO
All Loyola men's basketball games can be heard this season on the Rambler Network, which is available at www.loyolaramblers.com by clicking on the Rambler Network tab on the home page.