LOYOLA (13-8, 3-5) vs. GREEN BAY (11-11, 5-4)
February 2, 2013 - 1 p.m. CST
Chicago, Ill. - Gentile Arena
Radio: www.loyolaramblers.com - John Fitzgerald (play-by-play); Stephond Robinson (analyst)
TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago, ESPN3 - Jim Barbar (play-by-play); Joel Cornette (analyst)
Live Video: www.horizonleague.com
THE OPENING TIP
The Ramblers, who have won three of their last four games, close out a three-game homestand when they host Green Bay. Saturday's game begins Loyola's second run through the Horizon League circuit and starts a grueling stretch that will see the team play three games in three cities in six days.
Loyola's offense is starting to round into shape and over the last three Horizon League contests, the Ramblers are putting up 68.7 ppg thanks in large part to a healthy 51 percent (76 for 149) shooting rate. Through the first five League outings, Loyola managed just 58.8 ppg and connected on only 40 percent (104 for 259) of its field goal attempts.
Head coach Porter Moser has steered Loyola to a six-game improvement from a year ago to match the school record for greatest jump by a head coach from his first year to his second. Jim Whitesell's 2005-06 squad also made a six-game jump from 13 to 19 wins.
With a 13-8 record and at least 10 games left on the schedule, the Ramblers have an opportunity to record just their sixth winning season in the last 28 years. Four of those winning seasons have come in the last 11 years.
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.
Junior Cully Payne was a teammate of Green Bay's Brennan Cougill when both played at the University of Iowa in 2009-10. One of their assistant coaches that season was the television analyst for Saturday's game, former Butler standout, Joel Cornette.
The Last Meeting
January 9, 2013
Green Bay, Wis.
Loyola's Road Winning Streak Snapped With 58-45 Loss At Green Bay
Loyola University Chicago (10-5, 1-2 Horizon) shot 32 percent (18 for 57) from the field and was unable to overcome a slow start as it saw its three-game road winning streak snapped with a 58-45 loss to host Green Bay (7-9, 1-2 Horizon) tonight at the Resch Center. Freshman Devon Turk scored a team-high 11 points to lead the Ramblers, who dropped back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 16-17.
ABOUT THE PHOENIX
Green Bay has won five of its last seven games overall but has dropped two of its last three, including a 60-57 decision at UIC Thursday night. The Phoenix, which was picked third in the Horizon League Preseason Poll, is just 1-4 on the road in conference action, and 1-9 overall in true road games, this winter. Sophomore guard Keifer Sykes, who was a teammate of Loyola freshman Milton Doyle at Marshall High School in Chicago, leads Green Bay with averages of 15.4 points and 4.2 assists per game. The Phoenix, which also receives 12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 1.6 bpg from junior center Alec Brown, is the top free throw shooting team in the Horizon League at 75.5 percent.
Saturday's game marks the 41st meeting between the teams since the series began when the Phoenix joined the conference for the 1994-95 season. Green Bay holds a 25-15 advantage in the all-time series and has claimed seven of the last eight encounters, including each of the last three. Loyola, which is 10-8 against Green Bay in the Windy City, is 4-5 in the last nine games at Gentile Arena. When the teams met last month, the Ramblers never were able to recover from a slow start that put it in a 32-12 hole at halftime as the Phoenix collected a 58-45 victory at the Resch Center. On Green Bay's last trip to Chicago, Kam Cerroni's three-pointer with four-tenths of a second left in overtime proved the difference in the Phoenix's 73-70 victory, which spoiled a 26-point, 10-rebound performance by Loyola forward Ben Averkamp.
With a pair of free throws at the 19:18 mark of the second half in the season opener against Toledo, senior forward Ben Averkamp became the 39th player in Loyola history to score 1,000 points. Now tied with John Egan for 17th on the school's career scoring chart with 1,315 points, the 6-foot-8 Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick needs 58 points to tie Wayne Sappleton for 16th all-time with 1,373 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.
An overtime victory at Chicago State on January 20 gave 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.
HALL OF AN HONOR
On March 16, Loyola assistant coach and former University of Arizona star Jason Gardner will be inducted into the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Hall of Honor at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. Gardner was the Naismith Player of the Year in 2003 and helped the Wildcats to a NCAA Runner-Up finish in 2001. He totaled 1,984 career points in his illustrious career.
TALE OF TWO SEASONS AT GENTILE
During the non-conference portion of the season, Loyola's defense was stingy, holding opponents to 54.0 ppg on 38 percent shooting from the field and 32 percent from three-point range in five games at Gentile Arena. However, in Horizon League action, opponents have put up 67.5 ppg and buried 47 percent of their field goal attempts and 35 percent of their triple tries at "The Joe."
GETTING IT DONE WITH DEFENSE
Defense has been the foundation of the Rambler program since Porter Moser took over the reins for the 2011-12 campaign. In two seasons under Moser's leadership, Loyola has allowed only 53.3 ppg in its 20 victories, while also limiting opponents to 37 percent (400 for 1,079) shooting from the field and 28 percent (91 for 327) 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 16 occasions after doing so just 15 times in the previous three seasons combined. Through games of January 27, Loyola ranked 43rd in the nation in scoring defense at 59.5 ppg, and in 10 of its 13 wins this season has held the opposition to less than 40 percent field goal accuracy.
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 came off the bench to produce 11 points at Green Bay last month. Turk has provided instant offense off the bench and ranks second among Horizon League freshmen, behind only Cleveland State's Bryn Forbes (12.1 ppg), with 8.1 ppg. Over the last six home games, he is posting 12.0 ppg and shooting 46 percent (25 for 54) from the field and 46 percent (18 for 39) from beyond the arc. Turk ranks third in the League in three-point field goal percentage (.436) 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. 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.
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 he has proven to be a major addition to the 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 9.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, and 1.1 spg, while shooting 36 percent (44 for 123) from the field, and 38 percent (27 for 72) from long distance over the last 16 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 57 of his career appearances, the Ramblers are now 11-4 this season when he scores six or more points and 4-2 when he scores in double digits. Payne has knocked down at least one three-pointer in nine of Loyola's last 10 outings and in the last two games at Gentile Arena is producing 11.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, and 1.0 spg. Payne, who ranks third in the Horizon League with 4.3 apg, has also converted 20 of his last 24 (.833) attempts from the foul line, and in his last three contests is managing 10.0 ppg on 53 percent (9 for 17) shooting from the field and 60 percent (6 for 10) from long distance after netting 4.3 ppg and hitting 17 percent (5 for 29) of his shots from the field and 21 percent (4 for 19) from triple territory in the previous four outings.
After going through a month-long scoring slump, fifth-year senior Jordan Hicks has come out of that funk in a big way, averaging 11.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 2.8 apg, while connecting on 61 percent (20 for 33) of his field goal attempts, over the last four contests. Prior to that, the 6-foot-6 Rochester, Minn., native had put up only 3.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, and shot 33 percent (14 for 42) from the field in his previous nine outings. He erupted for a season-high 21 points against Milwaukee Wednesday night for his best output since November 20, 2010 at Western Michigan when he also tallied 21 points. Hicks is contributing 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and is hitting a whopping 67 percent (14 for 21) of his shots in the last two games at Gentile Arena and he has feasted on teams from the neighboring state of Wisconsin, going for 14.4 ppg on 67 percent (32 for 48) shooting, in his last five meetings with opponents from America's Dairyland.
When Ben Averkamp (22 points) and Jordan Hicks (21 points) each topped the 20-point plateau against Milwaukee on January 30, it marked the first time Rambler teammates had scored 20 or more points in the same game since January 5, 2012 at Youngstown State when Walt Gibler (26) and Averkamp (23) accomplished the feat.
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 nearly doubled its win total from last season. Earlier this year, 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 - Valpo's Ryan Broekhoff is the other - to rank among the top five in the Horizon League in both scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg), the Germantown, Wis., native has been a staple in the Loyola lineup, earning a starting nod in 88 of his last 89 appearances. An inside-outside threat, Averkamp connected for four three-point field goals en route to 25 points at No. 19 Michigan State on December 8, but after opening the year 10 for 24 (.417) from beyond the arc, has drained just 2 of his last 15 (.133) triple tries. Averkamp has put up 18.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 bpg, and shot 49 percent (45 for 91) from the field in his last seven League games at Gentile Arena. Wednesday night he recorded his third double-double of the year with 22 points and 12 boards against Milwaukee for his best scoring output since December 8 and he is averaging 20.5 ppg and 8.3 rpg in his last four home games against teams from his native state of Wisconsin. Despite failing to score 20 or more points in his first 69 appearances as a Rambler, Averkamp has topped the 20-point plateau 14 times in his last 41 outings, including four times this season.
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. He was named Horizon League Male Scholar-Athlete of the Month in both November and December this season.
MORE ON AVERKAMP'S ACADEMICS
Earlier this week, Ben Averkamp was named to the Capital One Academic All-District V Team for the second consecutive season and he will now appear on the national Academic All-America ballot. The biology major was joined on the academic all-district squad by Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Cody Zeller (Indiana), Jordan Hulls (Indiana), and Andrew Smith (Butler).
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 has emerged as a scoring threat at the offensive end of the floor, while also becoming one of the top board men in the conference, particularly over the last 12 games. After putting up only 4.6 ppg and 4.0 rpg, while connecting on 52 percent (12 for 23) of his field goal tries in the first nine games of the year, the St. Louis, Mo., native has cranked up his production to 13.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 62 percent (60 for 97) shooting from the field in the last 12 contests. His numbers have jumped to 16.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg over the last six games since a scoreless-with-one-rebound effort at Green Bay on January 9. Thomas has scored in double digits in 10 of the last 12 games, and has posted four double doubles during that stretch, including an 18-point, 11-rebound effort against Detroit last Saturday. Should he maintain his current accuracy rate from the field (.600), the 6-foot-5 forward, who has already surpassed his point total from his rookie season (149), would post the best single-season field percentage (minimum 100 attempts) by a Rambler since JaJa Richards in 1996-97 (63 for 105 - .600). Thomas has scored in double figures in a career-best six straight contests and he has increased his output in Horizon League action from 4.5 ppg and 3.7 rpg a year ago to 13.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg in 2012-13. He is pitching in 14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and is shooting 67 percent (35 for 52) from the field, in the last five games at Gentile Arena.
TURK'S A TRIPLE THREAT Devon Turk is on his way to becoming the most prolific three-point-shooting freshman in program history and he enters Saturday's game just one triple shy of equaling Brian Wolf's rookie record of 42 set in 1989-90. Turk's 41 treys are the most by a Rambler freshman since Chris Williams tossed in 41 triples in 1998-99, and that mark also easily surpasses the total of last season's team leaders, Ben Averkamp (26) and Joe Crisman (26).
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 27-5 (.844) when leading at the half since the start of the 2010-11 season. Since the outset of the 2008-09 campaign, the Ramblers are 48-10 (.828) when leading at the break. Loyola has led at the intermission in all eight of its home games this winter.
Loyola has put together an impressive run of 14 or more unanswered points to help the team to a victory six times in its 13 wins this season. Wednesday night marked the second time this year that the Ramblers have strung together 20 consecutive points to turn a deficit into a comfortable lead. On December 1, Loyola hung 20 unanswered points on Furman en route to a 77-50 victory and the Ramblers also have put together runs of 17-0 (vs. Mississippi State) and 16-0 (vs. Rockhurst, vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, and at Cleveland State) on their way to victories. Loyola tallied 14 straight points to take a 30-25 lead at No. 19 Michigan State, but eventually fell to the Spartans, 73-61.
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 and 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, which features articles, statistics, biographies, photos and video interviews with players from that historic squad.
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 1,038 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Saturday's contest against Green Bay. Hired prior to the 1977-78 season, Hitcho has not missed a Rambler game in 36 years, and has been witness to 481 victories.
Sophomore guard Joe Crisman, who had started the first 20 games this season, missed the Milwaukee game Wednesday night and will be sidelined for 2-3 weeks following surgery to repair a broken finger ... Loyola is only 11-30 (.286) at Gentile Arena in Horizon League play since the start of the 2008-09 season ... One of the top free throw shooting teams in the nation at 73.5 percent, Loyola has converted just 59.5 percent (22 for 37) of its charity tosses in the last pair of contests after sinking 83.3 percent (75 for 90) in the previous 6 games.