Jan. 10, 2013
LOYOLA (10-5, 1-2) vs. WRIGHT STATE (12-4, 3-0)
January 11, 2013 - 8 p.m. CST
Chicago, Ill. - Gentile Arena
Radio: www.loyolaramblers.com - John Fitzgerald (play-by-play); Stephond Robinson (analyst)
TV: ESPNU - Jim Barbar (play-by-play); Malcolm Huckaby (analyst)
Live Video: None
THE OPENING TIP
Loyola, which has already surpassed its wins total from last year (7), will try to avoid its first three-game losing skid of the season when it hosts Wright State Friday night.
Against non-conference opponents, the Ramblers have won 20 of their last 22 (.909) games at Gentile Arena, but in Horizon League play, that success has been reversed as they are just 10-28 (.263) at home since the start of the 2008-09 campaign.
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.
At home, Loyola has shot the ball exceptionally well, converting 44 percent (146 for 329) of its tries from the field, 37 percent (41 for 110) from long range, and 75 percent (76 for 101) from the foul line.
Friday's contest features two of the top defensive teams not only in the Horizon League but also in the country. Entering this week's games, Loyola ranked No. 34 in the nation in scoring defense, while Wright State stood at No. 12. Through games of January 9, the Raiders led the Horizon League in scoring defense (55.5), with the Ramblers right on their heels at 58.3 ppg.
Following Friday's game, the Ramblers will play their next three contests on the road, where they have won four of their last six.
ABOUT THE RAIDERS
Picked to finish last in the Horizon League Preseason Poll, Wright State has been the surprise team of the conference this season and enters Friday's game atop the Horizon League standings with a 3-0 League record. Winners of seven of their last eight games, including four in a row, the Raiders are 4-4 away from the Nutter Center but have lost three of their last four road games. One of the stingiest defenses in the nation that is allowing a Horizon League low 55.5 ppg has keyed Wright State's early success. Junior forward Cole Darling leads the Raiders with a 10.6 ppg average.
Friday's game will be the 38th meeting between the Ramblers and Raiders in a series that dates back to 1995, when Wright State joined the Horizon League. Wright State holds a 22-15 advantage in the series and has taken 11 of the last 12 meetings between the teams, including each of the last five. In fact, after winning nine of the first 12 games between the teams in Chicago, Loyola has dropped five of the last six in the Windy City, with the lone win being a thrilling 53-52 victory on New Year's Eve in 2009. At Gentile Arena last season, Loyola committed 21 turnovers, shot 39 percent from the field, and was done in by 10 Raider three-point field goals, in a 64-48 loss as Walt Gibler (12) and Christian Thomas (11) scored in double digits for the Ramblers.
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 1,215 points, the 6-foot-8 Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick needs seven 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 at Gentile Arena this season, has given up only 56.3 ppg and held teams to 39 percent (128 for 323) accuracy from the field and 32 percent (30 for 93) 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 multiple triples in each of the last four games. Turk has provided instant offense off the bench and ranks second among Horizon League freshmen with 8.6 ppg. Over the last eight games, the Houston native is pitching in 11.6 ppg and shooting 46 percent (30 for 66) from the field, including 47 percent (21 for 45) from long distance. Turk ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal percentage (.456) 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 (.358). Should the Ramblers be able to shoot that effectively for the remainder of the season, they could 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 31 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 10.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 4.9 apg, and 1.4 spg, while shooting 38 percent (32 for 85) from the field, and 39 percent (18 for 46) from long distance over the last 10 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. 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 52 of his career appearances, 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 10.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 1.5 spg, while shooting 41 percent (14 for 34) from the field and 39 percent (7 for 18) from long distance, in the last four home games after going for 3.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 0.5 spg, and misfiring on all 10 of his field goal tries in the first two games at Gentile Arena. Payne has also converted 11 of his last 12 (.917) attempts from the foul line and is posting 13.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 1.5 spg in the last four outings. Over the last five home games, Payne has doled out 24 assists to just seven turnovers for an impressive 3.43 assist-to-turnover ratio.
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 (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg), the Germantown, Wis., native has been a staple in the Loyola lineup, earning a starting nod in 82 of his last 83 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. After getting off to a terrific start in which he averaged 17.4 ppg and converted 51 percent (55 for 109) of his shots from the field, including 42 percent (10 for 24) from long range through the first nine games, Averkamp has cooled a bit and is managing 11.5 ppg on 34 percent (19 for 56) shooting, while misfiring on his last seven triple attempts, in the last six outings. When he broke out of a six-game slump last February, he did so in a big way, averaging 20.3 ppg over the final seven outings of 2011-12. In his last four home League games, Averkamp is recording 19.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, and 1.3 bpg, while connecting on 49 percent (26 for 53) of his field goal tries. 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 35 outings. He has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine appearances at Gentile Arena.
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 Wright State game, he has recorded 1,215 points, 571 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 six games, during which he is averaging 10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, and sinking 56 percent (25 for 45) of his field goal attempts. Over the last six 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. Last month, 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 56 percent (89 for 160) 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 3.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, and 30 percent (6 for 20) shooting in its defeats. Thomas has been a thorn in Valparaiso's side and after a 14-point performance there on January 2, he is tallying 11.7 ppg in three career meetings versus the Crusaders and 5.2 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. Although he was held scoreless Wednesday night at Green Bay for the first time since December 31, 2011, the Munster, Ind., native is averaging 10.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, and shooting 50 percent (26 for 52) from the field and 47 percent (9 for 19) from three-point range in his last seven home League games.
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 1,032 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Friday's contest against Wright State. Hired prior to the 1977-78 season, Hitcho has not missed a Rambler game in 36 years, witnessing 478 victories.
Loyola is 4-1 this season when Jordan Hicks registers seven or more field goal attempts ... The Ramblers were ranked No. 134 in the NCAA RPI rankings, which were released on January 7.
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.