Men's Basketball

Ramblers Ready For Wednesday's Showdown With DePaul
Ben Averkamp posted 17 points and eight rebounds against DePaul last season

Dec. 6, 2011

Loyola vs. DePaul Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader

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Loyola (1-6) vs. DePaul (4-3)
Gentile Arena - Chicago, Ill.
December 7, 2011 - 7 p.m. CT
TV: Lakeshore Public Television, ESPN Full Court, ESPN3, Horizon League Network (
Radio: WLUW (88.7 FM)

After playing six of its first seven games away from home, Loyola finally returns to Gentile Arena to begin a stretch in which it will play five of the next seven contests on its home floor. The Ramblers, who opened Horizon League play last weekend with a pair of tough losses at Milwaukee and Green Bay, won their only previous home game of the 2011-12 campaign, topping Fordham, 64-50, on November 26. Wednesday's game marks the first time since January 5, 1980, that DePaul is playing Loyola in Rogers Park.

Loyola and DePaul are meeting for the 55th time in a series DePaul leads, 37-17. The Ramblers have come up on the short end of 10 straight and 13 of the last 14 decisions versus their neighbors from Lincoln Park. Loyola's last victory was a 70-69 decision on January 21, 1989 at the Amphitheatre as Keith Gailes, who finished with team highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds, hit a game-winning free throw with no time remaining to provide the winning margin. When the teams met last December 18 at Allstate Arena, Geoff McCammon lit up the scoreboard for a career-high 31 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome a balanced DePaul attack led by Tony Freeland's 16 points, as the host Blue Demons picked up an 81-74 victory. Loyola has won three of its last five home games versus DePaul.

Loyola is 78-144 (.351) all-time against current members of the Big East Conference, with a majority of those wins coming versus Marquette (35) and DePaul (17). The Ramblers last win over a current Big East school was a 70-58 decision at Notre Dame on January 24, 1994.

Devin Hill, a 6-foot-9 forward, is sitting out the 2011-12 season after transferring to Loyola from DePaul. In three seasons with the Blue Demons, the Stamford, Conn., native averaged 4.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

Senior Walt Gibler is approaching a pair of milestone numbers as his collegiate career winds down. The 6-foot-7 forward is 191 points shy of becoming the 38th player in Loyola history to total 1,000 for his career. Gibler also needs just 98 more rebounds to join the 500-rebound club. Should Gibler reach both the 1,000-point and 500-rebound marks, he would become just the 18th player in school history and the first since Blake Schilb (2003-07) to accomplish the feat.

Since the start of the 2005-06 season, Loyola has rolled up a 36-7 (.837) record at home in non-Horizon League games. The Ramblers are 13-2 (.867) in non-conference games at Gentile Arena since the outset of the 2009-10 campaign.

Despite its struggles on the offensive end of the floor, Loyola has done an admirable job of shutting down the opposition this season. The Ramblers are yielding 62.1 ppg this season, but over the last three games, the Maroon and Gold has tightened up its defense and is limiting opponents to 55.3, on 37 percent (64 for 173) shooting from the field and a meager 22 percent (11 for 51) from three-point range. Loyola has permitted just one opponent, Kansas State (74 points), to score 70 or more points this year.

Depth is a major concern for Loyola this season as the squad currently has only eight healthy scholarship players. Loyola's top six players - Ben Averkamp (11.9 ppg), Walt Gibler (11.3), Joe Crisman (9.0), Denzel Brito (8.7), Chim Kadima (4.6) and Christian Thomas (4.1) - are accounting for 49.6 of Loyola's 53.4 points per game this season.

The starting five from Loyola's 1963 NCAA Championship team - John Egan, Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Ron Miller and Vic Rouse - were known as "The Iron Men" for playing entire games without substitutions, including the title game overtime win versus Cincinnati. Through the first seven games of the 2011-12 season, the Ramblers may have some new "Iron Men" as Joe Crisman (247), Denzel Brito (241) and Ben Averkamp (241) have each been on the floor for over 240 of the team's 280 minutes this season.

One of the top big men in the Horizon League, junior Ben Averkamp was a Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick this year. The 6-foot-8 forward, who was the League's highest-scoring sophomore a year ago with 12.0 ppg, blossomed last season, nearly doubling his scoring average from his rookie year (6.3 ppg). The only Rambler to start all 31 contests in 2010-11, the Germantown, Wis., native has been a member of the starting five in 66 of his 68 career appearances, including each of the last 47 outings. Averkamp appears to have shaken off a mini, two-game slump during which he averaged 8.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg, but shot just 27 percent (6 for 22) from the field, in losses at Eastern Illinois and Furman, by recording 13.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.3 bpg and 1.0 spg, and hitting 42 percent (16 for 38) of his shots over the last three contests. In last season's meeting with DePaul at Allstate Arena, Averkamp contributed 17 points and eight rebounds and hit 6 of 9 shots from the field. Dating back to last season, Averkamp is chipping in 13.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 apg and 1.2 bpg in his last 10 appearances at home and he is coming off a 14-point, eight-rebound performance at Green Bay on December 3.

A true sign that Averkamp has come into his own has been his improved play versus teams from BCS conferences. In his last four games versus BCS conference opponents, the Academic All-Horizon League selection has produced 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.3 bpg.

In today's climate, it is very rare to find two NCAA Division I men's basketball student-athletes on the same team who are pre-med majors. However, it is even more rare when those two individuals are two of the program's best players, yet that is the case with senior Walt Gibler and junior Ben Averkamp. Both have aspirations of attending medical school and both excel on the court and in the classroom. Averkamp was an Academic All-Horizon League selection last season, while both have been named to the Horizon League Academic Honor Roll. Averkamp has plans of pursuing a career in orthopedic medicine, while Gibler hopes to specialize in orthopedics or emergency medicine. Gibler comes from a family with a background in medicine as his father, Dr. Brian Gibler, is the president and CEO of the University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Senior Walt Gibler, who along with Averkamp, is serving as a team captain for the 2011-12 season, got his final collegiate season off to a rousing start, netting a game-high 19 points, while pulling down six rebounds at Illinois November 11. Gibler scored 15 of his points in the second half of that game and his 19-point outburst at Illinois was his best effort since pouring in a career-best 25 points against Cleveland State January 29. One of the top free throw shooters in the Horizon League, Gibler has connected on 41 of his last 52 (.788) foul shots dating back to last season and he is knocking down 80 percent (295 for 371) of his career charity tosses. The 6-foot-7 forward was named Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year in 2009-10 after putting up 11.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg and so far this season is putting up nearly identical numbers of 11.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg. The Cincinnati, Ohio has averaged 11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and shot 53 percent (8 for 15) versus BCS conference opponents this year and appears to have bounced back from a short-lived offensive slump by tallying 15.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 apg and knocking down 60 percent (9 for 15) of his field-goal tries in the last pair of contests. In his last 29 appearances at home, Gibler is accounting for 11.4 ppg and 5.5 rpg.

If it weren't for bad luck, senior Jordan Hicks would have no luck at all. The most athletic player on the Rambler roster, Hicks has suffered a season-ending foot injury in each of the last two seasons, and his departure from the lineup has been crippling to the Loyola offense. Through the first nine games of the 2010-11 campaign, the 6-foot-6 guard/forward averaged 11.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.8 bpg and 0.7 spg, while hitting 49 percent (38 for 77) of his shots as Loyola hung 72.1 points on the scoreboard each night. In his last 15 starts dating back to his freshman year of 2008-09, the Rochester, Minn., native is tallying 12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and shooting 51 percent (67 for 132) from the field. He got off to a great start last November, putting up 12.4 ppg through the first seven outings of the year, including a season-best, 21-point, seven-rebound performance in an 82-64 victory at Western Michigan on November 20. He has missed the first seven games of this season due to a setback in his recovery from last year's foot injury and has sat out 47 of the last 68 contests because of injuries.

Loyola has hard a rough go at the offensive end of the floor and is averaging just 53.4 ppg this season. Over the last pair of outings, the offense has sputtered to the tune of 44.0 ppg, 37 percent shooting (31 for 84) from the field and 24 percent (4 for 17) from long distance. In the post World War II era, the Ramblers' lowest scoring average for a season was 54.0 ppg in 1945-46.

Seventy points has been a benchmark for success when it comes to Loyola's offense the last few seasons. In fact, dating back to the 2006-07 campaign, Loyola has won 37 of its last 47 contests when it reaches the 70-point plateau and was 12-4 when doing so in 2010-11. However, the Ramblers have failed to score 70 points in their last 12 games dating back to a 79-62 win over Green Bay on February 12.

The Ramblers have connected for at least one three-point field goal in 88 straight games. The last time Loyola was held without a trey was in an 89-65 victory over SIU Edwardsville on December 22, 2008.

A member of the starting five in each of the first seven games of the year, freshman Joe Crisman has displayed the poise of a seasoned veteran. The first true freshman to score in double figures in three straight games since Jordan Hicks did so in four consecutive outings, February 10-18, 2009, Crisman is averaging 14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 2.0 spg, while shooting a blistering 60 percent (6 for 10) from the field at home this season. He enters Wednesday's game ranked third on the team with 9.0 ppg and has contributed 8.5 ppg and 2.0 rpg versus BCS conference foes this year. Crisman is looking to break out of a two-game funk in which he is contributing 4.0 ppg on 19 percent (3 for 16) shooting from the field, after going for 12.7 ppg and hitting 43 percent (16 for 37) in the previous three games. He was limited to a season-low two points at Green Bay last Saturday.

Loyola's coaching staff of Porter Moser, Rodell Davis, Armon Gates and Jason Gardner combined for 3,756 points during their collegiate careers. A four-time All-American Gardner totaled 1,984 points in his career and helped the University of Arizona to a NCAA Runner-Up finish in 2001.

Head athletics trainer Dr. Tom Hitcho has worked 994 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Wednesday's game versus DePaul . Since joining the staff for the 1977-78 campaign, "Hitch," as he is affectionately known to those on campus, has not missed a single game and has witnessed 462 Rambler victories. In his 35th year at Loyola, Hitcho was inducted into the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.

Loyola is one of 16 NCAA Division I men's basketball programs to have earned a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA in each of the past four years for having an outstanding Academic Progress Rate (APR) score. Joining the Ramblers in that elite club are storied programs such as Kansas and North Carolina. Loyola is the only Horizon League men's basketball program to have received a NCAA Public Recognition Award in each of the last four years.

Last month, Loyola announced the signing of four student-athletes to National Letters of Intent. Moser and his staff identified Illinois and Indiana as the primary focus for their recruiting and held true to their word, landing two players from each state. Guards Darrell Combs (South Holland, Ill./Thornwood) and Jeff White (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Manual) and forwards Matt O'Leary (Terre Haute, Ind./Terre Haute North Vigo) and Nick Osborne (Muncie, Ind./Muncie Central) will be eligible to play for the 2012-13 season. Combs, a 6-foot-1 combo guard averaged 19 points, four rebounds and four assists as a junior in 2010-11 and has been ranked as the No. 12 senior in the Chicagoland area by Hoops Report. White, who also stands 6-foot-1, averaged 15.0 ppg and 3.7 apg last season and helped Manual to a second-place finish in the IHSA Tournament. O'Leary, a sharp-shooting 6-foot-7 forward, tallied 9.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 apg and 1.3 apg last season, while Osborne, a 6-fot-8 forward who has been ranked as high as the No. 2 prospect in Indiana by some publications, put up 16.6 ppg and 10.1 rpg as a junior last winter. Joe Henricksen of Hoop Report said of this class: "I think Loyola hit a home run. I love Osborne. I think he's a huge get. I've always been a big fan of Darell Combs. He's versatile and can play both guard spots down the road. In a short period of time, Loyola has made its mark."

This is the first time since the 2008-09 season, when it played Georgia, Purdue and St. John's, that Loyola is playing three teams from BCS conferences in the same year...the Ramblers have won 61 of their last 67 home openers...Loyola has scored fewer than 50 points three times this year and 15 times in the last four-plus seasons.

One of the more pleasant surprises of the early going has been the play of sophomore Denzel Brito. The 6-foot-2 point guard appeared in 24 games off the bench last year and tallied just 32 points, but already this season has pumped in 61 points, while starting all seven contests. A native of Wareham, Mass., Brito enters Wednesday's game against DePaul ranked third in the Horizon League with 5.0 assists per game. In a November 26 victory over Fordham, he registered his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-best 10 assists for the highest assist total by a Rambler since Courtney Stanley doled out 11 at Holy Cross on November 20, 2009. Brito has fallen on hard times of late, averaging just 4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg and 3.5 apg, while draining 33 percent (3 for 9) of his shots from the field. Prior to that slide however, Brito had contributed 11.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 5.5 apg in the previous four contests. His double-double versus Fordham was the first by a Loyola player since Andy Polka registered 10 points and 13 rebounds at Detroit on March 1 and the first by a Rambler guard since Stanley had 10 points and 11 assists at Holy Cross on November 20, 2009.

Two of the first players that Moser added to the roster when he took over the Loyola program were transfers Cully Payne and Devin Hill. Both individuals will be required to sit out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Payne, a point guard who transferred from the University of Iowa, averaged 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 3.8 apg en route to All-Big Ten Freshman Team recognition by Sporting News in 2009-10. Hill, a 6-foot-9 forward, comes to Loyola from DePaul University, where he averaged 4.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 1.0 bpg in 67 career appearances.

In Loyola's lone win this season, Brito and Crisman combined for 25 points, 59 percent (10 for 17) shooting from the field, and 43 percent (3 for 7) from long range. However, in six losses, the duo has managed only 16.5 ppg on 34 percent (33 for 98) accuracy from the field, including 33 percent (14 for 43) from three-point territory.



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