Dec. 18, 2011
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LOYOLA (3-7) vs. ROCKHURST (5-4)
December 19, 2011 - Gentile Arena - 7 p.m. CT
RADIO: WLUW (88.7 FM), www.wluw.org
Loyola takes to the court for the second time in three days when it entertains NCAA Division II and fellow Jesuit school Rockhurst University Monday evening. The Ramblers are in search of their third consecutive win and should they obtain it, this would be Loyola's first winning streak of three or more games since a three-game run January 15-27, 2011. Monday's game is Loyola's final home non-conference contest of the 2011-12 regular season and is the only game it will play against a non-NCAA Division I foe.
Rockhurst, a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, won the only previous meeting between the schools, overcoming a remarkable 42-point effort by Loyola guard J.R. Blount to earn an 86-79 victory in Chicago November 14, 2008. Blount's 42 points matched the Gentile Center single-game scoring record set previously by David Bailey versus Texas A&M-Corpus Christi November 29, 2001. The Hawks were buoyed by 14 three-point field goals in that game and they shot a scorching 64 percent (16 for 25) from the field in the second half to pull off the upset.
JESUIT BASKETBALL SPOTLIGHT
Monday's game between Loyola and Rockhurst is part of the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight project, using basketball to raise awareness of Jesuit education. The Jesuit Basketball Spotlight project highlights games between men's and women's teams from the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities across the United States. Both Loyola and Rockhurst are Jesuit institutions. The Ramblers are 1-0 versus Jesuit foes this season thanks to a 64-50 victory over Fordham November 26.
GIBLER'S MARCH TO MILESTONES
Senior Walt Gibler is approaching a pair of milestone numbers as his collegiate career winds down. The 6-foot-7 forward is 146 points shy of becoming the 38th player in Loyola history to total 1,000 for his career. Gibler also needs just 80 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.
RAMBLERS VERSUS NON-DIVISION I FOES
Loyola has prevailed in nine of its last 10 games versus non-NCAA Division I opponents with the lone setback coming at the hands of Rockhurst, November 14, 2008. The Ramblers have dominated their lower-division foes of late, winning those nine contests by an average of 24.1 points. First-year Loyola Coach Porter Moser is 10-0 all-time versus non-Division I foes.
When Ben Averkamp (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Walt Gibler (16 points, 10 rebounds) each registered a double-double in Loyola's 64-49 victory over Chicago State on Saturday, it marked the first time since March 2, 2010, that a pair of Ramblers turned in double-double efforts in the same contest. On that day, Gibler (21 points, 10 boards) and Andy Polka (21 points, 12 rebounds) tallied a double-double in a Horizon League Championship First Round loss at Cleveland State.
Defense is a staple of Porter Moser coached teams and the Ramblers have kept opponents in check this season, permitting just one opponent, Kansas State (74 points), to score 70 or more points. In fact, in its three wins, Loyola has been even stingier on the defensive end, yielding only 51.3 ppg, on 35 percent (56 for 162) shooting from the field and 20 percent (11 for 54) from long range. However, in seven losses, the Ramblers have surrendered 64.9 ppg as opponents have connected on 45 percent (169 for 374) from the field and 31 percent (39 for 126) from three-point territory.
HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE
Since the start of the 2005-06 season, Loyola is 37-8 (.822) at home versus non-conference opponents. The Ramblers have emerged victorious in 14 of their last 17 (.824) home non-conference contests, with two of the losses coming to teams from BCS conferences - Kansas State and DePaul.
Depth has been a major concern for Loyola this season and the lack of healthy bodies has curbed production from the bench. Over the last three contests, the Rambler reserves have been out-scored 35-1, and over the last five games, the margin is 69-11 in favor of Loyola's opponents. Loyola's bench has produced 10 or more points just three times in the first 10 outings this year.
BEN AT WORK
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 69 of his 71 career appearances, including each of the last 50 outings. On December 10, Averkamp exploded for a career-best 31 points, 12 more than his previous single-game best, and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer as Loyola defeated Toledo, 57-55. His 31 points, which are the most by a Horizon League player this season, are the most by a Rambler since Geoff McCammon also dropped in 31 points at DePaul on December 18, 2010. Over the last two games, Averkamp is putting up 26.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 1.5 apg and he has now hit eight of his last nine (.889) free throws after opening the year 16 for 26 (.615) from the foul line. His ability to score the basketball has had a direct effect on Loyola's results as the Maroon and Gold is just 1-8 the last nine times he has failed to score in double figures. In Loyola's wins this season, Averkamp is putting up 21.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg, while shooting 46 percent (25 for 54) from the field. In the Ramblers' seven losses, he has managed 10.7 ppg and 6.6 rpg, both respectable numbers, but shot only 32 percent (29 for 90).
THE WORD ON WALT
Senior co-captain Walt Gibler is saving his best for last as he is contributing 13.8 points to go with 6.0 rebounds per game, while burying 55 percent (42 for 76) of his attempts from the field this season. After getting the season off to a splendid start by tossing in 19 points at Illinois, the Cincinnati, Ohio native hasn't slowed down, scoring in double digits on six occasions in 2011-12. The 6-foot-7 forward, who sat out the Toledo game with back spasms, has scored in double digits in four or more consecutive games for the first time since February 27 - November 18, 2010 (5 games), and is well on his way to setting a personal-best mark for field goal percentage for a season, eclipsing his previous best of 47 percent (104 for 223) in 2009-10, when he was named Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year. Over his last two appearances, Gibler is producing 22.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg and shooting a sizzling 62 percent (16 for 26). He tossed in a career-high 29 points against city rival DePaul earlier this month and is making this a December to remember by totaling 19.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg in four outings this month after going for 9.8 ppg and 4.8 ion November.
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.
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 10 games of this season due to a setback in his recovery from last year's foot injury and has sat out 50 of the last 71 contests because of injuries.
After playing only nine total minutes and failing to score in games versus Green Bay at DePaul earlier this month, sophomore Chim Kadima has bounced back with a vengeance, averaging 9.0 ppg and connecting on 57 percent (4 for 7) of his triple tries in the last pair of contests, both wins. In 23 appearances last year, the Milwaukee native totaled 47 points, but he has already racked up 50 points through 10 games this season. Kadima is tallying 8.0 ppg and shooting 56 percent (5 for 9) from the field in Loyola's home wins.
THAT 70s SHOW
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 15 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 91 straight games. The last time Loyola was held without a trey was in an 89-65 victory over SIU Edwardsville on December 22, 2008.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE
A member of the starting five in each of the first eight games of the year before suffering a hand injury that forced him to sit out the last two games, 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 has scored 10 or more points in four of his last six games, including a season-high-tying, 14-point performance versus DePaul on December 7. In his last four games versus non-conference opponents, the 6-foot-4 guard is going for 13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg and 1.8 apg and draining 38 percent (8 for 21) of his triple tries. The Munster, Ind., native has been more comfortable at home, posting 14.0 ppg and shooting 48 percent (11 for 23) at Gentile Arena, compared to 8.2 ppg, 32 percent (19 for 60) shooting from the field and 27 percent (7 for 26) from long range on enemy hardwood.
THIS STAFF COULD SCORE
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.
NOT WITHOUT A HITCH
Head athletics trainer Dr. Tom Hitcho has worked 997 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Monday's game versus Rockhurst. 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 464 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.
SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED
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 "Keke" 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."
Loyola is aiming for its first win on a day other than Saturday this season. The Ramblers are 3-1 on Saturday's this winter...Monday's game is the second in a stretch in which the Ramblers will play three games in six days...fans who donate a canned food item will receive a free general admission ticket to Monday's game versus Rockhurst.
DENZEL'S GAME IS NO ACT
One of the more pleasant surprises of the early going has been the play of sophomore Denzel Brito. The 6-foot-2 point guard averaged 10.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.6 apg and shot 42 percent (15 for 36) from the field in the first five games of the year, but those figures have slipped to 5.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.4 apg and 26 percent (10 for 39) in the last five contests. A starter in all 10 games, who has scored in double figures on five occasions, Brito tossed in 10 points versus Chicago State on Saturday for his first double-digit effort since November 26. His double-double (11 points, 10 assists) versus Fordham was the first by a Rambler guard since Courtney Stanley had 10 points and 11 assists at Holy Cross on November 20, 2009. Brito has played 347 of a possible 400 minutes this season.
PAYNE AND HILL TO SIT OUT 2011-12 SEASON
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.
NO DOUBTING THIS THOMAS
After a bit of a slow start while adjusting to the college game, freshman Christian Thomas has started to come in his own, averaging 7.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the last three contests. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward corralled a season-high 13 rebounds, the most by a Rambler this year, and added nine points at Toledo to just miss out on his first career double-double. Thomas is attacking the rim and has gone to the foul line an average of 6.3 times in the last three games after doing so just 1.1 times in the first seven games of the year. He has hit 16 of his last 26 (.552) field goal attempts after opening the year just 1 for 5 (.200). Thomas tallied eight points and eight boards against Chicago State.