LOYOLA (13-12, 3-9) vs. UIC (15-10, 6-6)
February 16, 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), Bernie Fuhs (analyst)
Live Video: www.horizonleague.com
THE OPENING TIP
Loyola will attempt to put an end to a four-game losing skid when it hosts Horizon League and city foe UIC Saturday afternoon. Since opening the year by winning their first five home games, the Ramblers have dropped four of their last five at Gentile Arena.
Five of Loyola's nine losses in Horizon League play have been by three or fewer points. The last time the Ramblers dropped five or more games by three points or less was 2000-01 (6).
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.
Saturday, Loyola will honor the 1963 Rambler men's basketball team that won the NCAA Championship 50 years ago. To this day, Loyola remains the only school in the state of Illinois to have won the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
Getting leads hasn't been hard for Loyola, but maintaining them, especially in the second half has been problematic. So far this season, the Ramblers have let leads of 10 points or more slip away on four occasions and have gone 1-3 in those contests. Seven times this year Loyola has squandered an edge of five or more points in the second half, going 1-6 in those games.
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.
The Last Meeting
January 16, 2013
Loyola Drops 61-59 Heartbreaker At UIC
Gary Talton's layup with two seconds remaining capped UIC's comeback from a five-point, second-half deficit in UIC's (11-7, 2-3 Horizon) 61-59 victory over Loyola University Chicago (10-7, 1-4 Horizon) tonight at the UIC Pavilion. Three of the Ramblers' last four losses have come by a combined five points.
ABOUT THE FLAMES
One year after winning only eight games, UIC has nearly doubled its win total and enters Saturday's game having won four of its last six contests. The Flames, who are 2-4 on the road in Horizon League action, are coming off a thrilling 88-83 victory in triple overtime at Youngstown State on February 10. Head coach Howard Moore was an assistant coach at Loyola during the 2004-05 campaign and this season, his Flames are the top foul-shooting team in the Horizon League (.760). Four UIC players average double figures in scoring led by senior guard Gary Talton (13.4 ppg).
Loyola and UIC are meeting for the 50th time in a series that dates back to 1986. Although it has won five of the last seven meetings, Loyola trails the all-time series, 31-18. At home, the Ramblers are 12-11 all-time against the Flames and have won three in a row at Gentile Arena, including a 78-69 contest on February 11, 2012, when Ben Averkamp scored 17 points off the bench to lead Loyola, which shot 52 percent (27 for 52) from the field. When the teams met last month at the UIC Pavilion, Gary Talton's driving layup with two seconds remaining lifted the Flames to a 61-59 victory and spoiled a 16-point effort from Christian Thomas.
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 17th on the school's career scoring chart with 1,340 points, the 6-foot-8 Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick needs 33 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.
IN THE NICK OF TIME
Freshman Nick Osborne showed flashes of his enormous potential in Loyola's loss at Milwaukee on February 12, by totaling a career-high 11 points and snagging four rebounds. Over the last pair of contests, the 6-foot-8 forward is tallying 7.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 spg, and shooting 64 percent (7 for 11) from the field. A starter in each of the last three outings, Osborne had totaled just 15 points in his previous 14 games before notching 15 points in the last two contests.
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 February 10, Loyola ranked 42nd in the nation in scoring defense at 60.4 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 17 points at Youngstown State on February 7 for his best output since a 21-point effort aganst Mississippi State on December 15. Turk has provided instant offense off the bench and ranks second among Horizon League freshmen, behind only Cleveland State's Bryn Forbes (12.3 ppg), with 8.6 ppg. Over the last three games, the Houston native is putting up 13.0 ppg, and 3.3 rpg, while shooting 41 percent (12 for 29) from the field and 50 percent (10 for 20) from beyond the arc, after going for just 4.3 ppg, 0.7 rpg and hitting 24 percent (5 for 21) from the field, including 19 percent (3 for 16) from three-point range in the previous three games. Turk ranks third in the League in three-point field goal percentage (.437) 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.
PAYNE IS LOYOLA'S GAIN
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 shaken off a slow start and knocked down 39 percent (31 for 80) of his three-point attempts after converting just 1 of his first 12 (.083) from long distance. 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. For the first time this season, Payne was held without a point and without an assist for the first time in his collegiate career, when he was shut out in both categories at Youngstown State on February 7. He is averaging 10.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, and 4.7 apg, while connecting on 48 percent (11 for 23) of his field goal tries and 55 percent (6 for 11) of his long-range bombs in the last three home games.
After suffering through a month-long offensive slump, fifth-year senior Jordan Hicks has broken out of the funk and over the last eight contests is averaging 10.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.4 spg, and is converting 55 percent (32 for 58) of his field goal attempts, including 38 percent (8 for 21) of his long-range tries. Through the first 17 outings of the year, the Rochester, Minn., native put up 5.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.6 spg, and shot 43 percent (40 for 93) from the field and 39 percent (17 for 44) from beyond the arc. Hicks, who has tied a season best by draining a three-pointer in five consecutive contests, has been unstoppable in his last two appearances at Gentile Arena, going for 18.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.0 spg, and shooting a sizzling 68 percent (15 for 22) from the field and 44 percent (4 for 9) from triple territory. Loyola is hoping for a finish similar to what Hicks gave the club during the final seven games of his freshman campaign in 2008-09 when he tallied 13.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg, and 1.4 spg, while knocking down 54 percent (34 for 63) of his field goal attempts and 55 percent (12 for 22) of his three-point shots.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
Loyola has maintained its composure when falling behind this season and in fact, has erased double-digit deficits on five occasions, including four times in the second halves of games. Ironically, the Ramblers are just 1-4 in those contests. In fact, Loyola has rallied from deficits of 10 or more points three times in the last nine outings, and after trailing by 14 (34-20) at the half at Youngstown State on February 7, the Ramblers used a 32-16 run to take a four-point lead (54-50) before dropping a heartbreaking 60-59 decision.
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. 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 (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg), the Germantown, Wis., native has been a staple in the Loyola lineup, earning a starting nod in 90 of his last 91 appearances. He did miss the last pair of outings due to a concussion but after returning from the same injury a year ago, went on to average 20.3 pg, 7.3 rpg, and 3.6 apg in this final seven games of 2011-12. 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 17 (.118) triple tries. Averkamp, who is converting 53 percent (27 for 51) of his field goal attempts in his last five games, is contributing 16.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 2.0 apg over his last six appearances. He had string of seven consecutive double-figure-scoring games snapped when he managed eight points at Wright State on February 4. 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 43 outings, including four times this season. He needs three blocks to become the first player in Loyola history to total 1,300 points, 600 rebounds, 150 assists and 150 blocked shots.
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
Last month, 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 16 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 13.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 58 percent (82 for 141) shooting from the field in the last 15 contests. His numbers have jumped to 15.4 ppg and 7.8 rpg over the last 10 games since a scoreless-with-one-rebound effort at Green Bay on January 9. Thomas has scored in double digits in 14 of the last 16 games, and has posted four double doubles during that stretch, including an 18-point, 11-rebound effort against Detroit on January 26. Should he maintain his current accuracy rate from the field (.573), 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 Demetrius Williams' 58 percent (109 for 189) success rate in 2002-03. Thomas has scored in double figures in a career-best nine 10 contests and he has increased his output in Horizon League action from 4.5 ppg and 3.7 rpg a year ago to 13.9 ppg and 6.6 rpg in 2012-13. He is pitching in 15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, and is shooting 62 percent (34 for 55) from the field, in the last six home games.
TURK'S A TRIPLE THREAT
By knocking down a trio of three-point field goals at Wright State on February 4, Devon Turk eclipsed Brian Wolf's single-season school record for three-point field goals by a freshman (42) set in 1989-90. Turk, who has connected for 52 trifectas this winter, has doubled the total of threes shared by last season's team leaders, Ben Averkamp (26) and Joe Crisman (26). His 52 treys put him one shy of cracking Loyola's overall single-season top 10 and he has buried 10 trifectas in the last three 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 27-7 (.794) when leading at the half since the start of the 2010-11 season. Since the outset of the 2008-09 campaign, the Ramblers are 48-12 (.800) when leading at the break.
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. A January 30 win versus Milwaukee 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 1,042 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Saturday's contest versus UIC. Hired prior to the 1977-78 season, Hitcho has not missed a Rambler game in 36 years, and has been witness to 481 victories.
After trotting out the same starting lineup for each of the first 20 games of the season, Loyola has utilized four different lineups in the last five games ... Injuries have plagued the Ramblers yet again this season as six of the 14 players eligible players on the roster have missed at least one game due to injury ... Loyola is shooting 49 percent (79 for 160) from the field in its last three outings at Gentile Arena ... The Ramblers are just 11-31 (.262) in Horizon League home games since the start of the 2008-09 season.