LOYOLA (8-3) at DePAUL (9-3)
December 29, 2012 - 1 p.m. CST
Rosemont, Ill. - Allstate Arena
Radio: www.loyolaramblers.com - John Fitzgerald (play-by-play); Stephond Robinson (analyst)
TV: WCIU-DT2, ESPN3 - Zach Zaidman (play-by-play), Jeff Blanzy (analyst)
Live Video: None
THE OPENING TIP
Loyola, which has already surpassed its win total from a year ago (7), and DePaul renew one of the city's best rivalries Saturday as the Ramblers look for their first win against the Blue Demons since January 21, 1989.
Since the 1966-67 season, Loyola has started a year by winning at least eight of its first 11 games just eight times, though five of those have come in the last eight seasons.
Loyola has won 13 of its last 16 (.813) games versus non-Horizon League opponents with two of those three losses coming on the home court of BCS conference foes (South Florida and Michigan State).
This year marks the first time since 1979-80 that each squad has at least a .727 winning percentage at the time of their match-up. In their second meeting of the 1979-80 season, Loyola carried a 7-2 record into their showdown with the undefeated Blue Demons (9-0).
The Ramblers have won six of their last eight games played away from home against non-Horizon League foes.
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.
Loyola is looking for its second win over a BCS conference foe this season. Two weeks ago, the Ramblers snapped a nine-game losing streak to BCS conference opponents with a 59-51 victory over Mississippi State for their first decision over a BCS rival since a 74-53 victory versus Georgia on November 17, 2008. The Ramblers last won multiple games versus BCS conference foes in the same season in 1991-92 (Northwestern and Purdue).
The Ramblers are 4-1 in day game this season with the lone setback coming at No. 19 Michigan State.
ABOUT THE BLUE DEMONS
DePaul enters Saturday's game on a seven-game winning streak and is 6-1 at Allstate Arena this season, with the only loss coming at the hands of Gardner-Webb (71-59) on November 15. The high-scoring tandem of Cleveland Melvin (17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Brandon Young (16.1 ppg, 4.8 apg) leads the Blue Demons, who are shooting 45 percent from the field as a team and forcing an average of 17.7 turnovers per game. DePaul is coming off a 69-61 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County last Saturday, in which Melvin totaled a game-high 24 points.
This is the 56th meeting between the Ramblers and Blue Demons and DePaul holds a 38-17 advantage in the all-time series. DePaul has dominated the recent history between the teams, winning 11 straight contests and 14 of the last 15, including a 69-58 decision at Gentile Arena last December. In that contest, Walt Gibler scored a career-best 29 points to lead Loyola, which mounted a furious second-half rally but was unable to overcome a 33-point deficit. The Ramblers', who are just 1-19 against the Blue Demons on their home floor, have not prevailed against their city rival since a 70-69 victory on January 21, 1989.
LOYOLA VERSUS THE BIG EAST
The Ramblers own a 78-146 (.348) record against current members of the BIG EAST Conference and 65 of their wins have come against the "Catholic 7" - DePaul (17-38), Georgetown (2-7), Marquette (35-46), Providence (0-2), St. John's (7-8), Seton Hall (1-3) and Villanova (3-0). Loyola has not defeated a current member of the BIG EAST since a 70-58 victory at Notre Dame on January 24, 1994.
THAT'S A WINNER
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game at DePaul, Loyola is assured of posting consecutive months with a winning record for the first time since November - December 2009 when it went 4-1 in November to set the stage for a 7-1 performance in December. This year, the Ramblers went 5-2 in the opening month of the season and are 3-1 this month heading into Saturday's showdown with DePaul. With eight wins this season, Loyola has already eclipsed its total from 2011-12 (7). Through games of December 25, among Horizon League schools only UIC and Valparaiso, with nine wins apiece, had more victories than the Ramblers.
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 tied for 25th on the school's career scoring chart with 1,168 points, the 6-foot-8 Preseason Second Team All-Horizon League pick needs one point to tie Vic Rouse for 24th all-time with 1,169 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.
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 51.3 ppg in its 15 victories, while also limiting opponents to 36 percent (288 for 795) from the field and 27 percent (66 for 247) 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 14 occasions after doing so 15 times in the previous three seasons combined. Discarding an 81-78 victory over Tennessee Tech on November 28, the Ramblers are holding opponents to a meager 47.6 ppg in their victories this year, and in the last two games, have yielded only 50.0 ppg and held Mississippi State and Saint Peter's to a combined 38 percent (39 for 102) shooting, including 24 percent (6 for 25) from three-point land. Through games of December 23, Loyola ranked 26th in the nation in scoring defense (57.5 ppg).
One year after shooting just 31 percent (117 for 377) from three-point range, Loyola shares the top spot in the Horizon League in three-point accuracy (.363) through games of December 25. If the Ramblers can shoot at or near that clip for the remainder of the season, they will challenge the school record for three-point accuracy set in 1996-97 (.374). A sign of how far the Ramblers have come in their perimeter shooting is the number of triples by the team leaders. Last season, Ben Averkamp and Joe Crisman shared the team lead with 26 treys, but through only 11 games, Devon Turk has already sank 22 threes.
TURK'S A TRIPLE THREAT
Freshman Devon Turk has provided the Ramblers with a bona fide three-point shooting threat, something that was sorely missing last season. The first Rambler 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 try at Saint Peter's last Saturday. However, Turk has provided instant offense off the bench and ranks second on the team and third among Horizon League freshmen with 8.1 ppg. Over the last four games, the Houston native is pitching in 13.3 ppg and shooting 52 percent (17 for 33) from the field, including a staggering 57 percent (12 for 21) from long distance. Turk ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal percentage (.500) and in three games versus BCS conference foes, is contributing 13.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, and shooting 56 percent (10 for 18) from three-point land. 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.
Solid efforts in the second half have been a staple in Loyola's eight wins this season. After putting up an average of only 26.3 points and connecting on 37 percent (74 for 202) of their field goal attempts in the first half, the Ramblers have rebounded to tally 37.8 points and shoot a sizzling 52 percent (102 for 197) from the field in the second period in their eight victories. In a win over Furman on December 1, Loyola notched 48 second-half points and converted 65 percent (20 for 31) of its field goal tries.
THE FORECAST CALLS FOR PAYNE
Junior point guard Cully Payne is starting to settle in after sitting out last season due to his transfer from the University of Iowa, where he was a Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten Team performer in 2009-10 after averaging 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 3.8 apg. Over the last six games, the 6-foot-1 Payne has contributed 9.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.8 apg, and 1.3 spg, while knocking down 39 percent (10 for 26) of his tries from long distance, numbers that are vast improvements over his 4.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.2 apg, 0.6 spg, and eight percent (1 for 12) in the first five contests. A starter in all 48 of his collegiate appearances, Payne has put up 7.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, and shot 50 percent (4 for 8) from downtown in his last two games versus BCS conference foes. Payne, who ranks fifth in the Horizon League with 4.5 apg, has racked up 22 assists to only seven turnovers in the last four outings. His 18 points versus Tennessee Tech on November 28 were his most since tossing in a career-best 25 versus Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament in 2010.
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 around January 1 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
Last year, Ben Averkamp blossomed into one of the top players in the Horizon League and this season should be in the discussion for player of the year accolades. A 2011-12 Second Team All-Horizon League honoree, the 6-foot-8 captain was named to the USF Invitational All-Tournament Team last month after tallying 20.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, and 2.0 bpg in three games. The Germantown, Wis., native, who is one of only two players to rank among the top four in the Horizon League in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) this season, is averaging 19.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 1.6 apg, while shooting 46 percent (55 for 120) in his last eight non-conference games in the month of December. An inside-outside threat, Averkamp has buried 9 of his last 22 shots (.409) from beyond the arc, and at No. 19 Michigan State on December 8, he matched a career high with four three-pointers en route to a game-high 25 points. Averkamp, who has scored in double digits in 18 of his last 20 appearances, failed to score 20 points in his first 69 career games, but has done so 13 times in his last 31 appearances. He recorded his first double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) of the year, and seventh of his career, at Northern Illinois on November 24, and in his last four games away from Gentile Arena, is popping for 21.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, and 1.3 spg, while converting 53 percent (26 for 49) of his field goal attempts and 44 percent (8 for 18) of his triple tries. A starter in 78 of his last 79 appearances, Averkamp totaled 17 points and eight boards at DePaul in 2010 and last season corralled 11 rebounds against the Blue Demons. Last weekend, he converted all 13 of his foul shots en route to a team-high 17 points in a win at Saint Peter's. Averkamp has converted 58 of his last 66 (.879) charity tosses.
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." Last month, 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 DePaul game, he has recorded 1,168 points, 548 rebounds, 153 assists, and 134 blocks.
THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS
Arguably the most improved player on the roster, sophomore Christian Thomas is contributing 12.5 ppg and 7.0 rpg, while shooting 60 percent (9 for 15) from the field in the last pair of outings. The 6-foot-5, St. Louis, Mo., native is went for a career-best 16 points and pulled in six rebounds in a victory over Mississippi State on December 15 and just missed out on his first career double-double when he totaled nine points and eight boards at Saint Peter's last Saturday. One of the top free throw shooters in the Horizon League, Thomas has converted 31 of his last 36 (.861) attempts from the charity stripe. Over the last seven contests, he has produced 8.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and shot 59 percent (17 for 29) from the field, after mustering just 2.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and shooting 44 percent (4 for 9) in the first four outings of the season. A career 56 percent (73 for 130) shooter from the field, Thomas has averaged 7.4 ppg and 5.1 rpg in the Ramblers' wins this season.
Sophomore Joe Crisman normally does a lot of little things that don't necessarily show up in the boxscore to help the Ramblers win. However, in last Saturday's victory at Saint Peter's, the Munster, Ind., native tallied a season-high 12 points, his most since February 23 versus Green Bay, and grabbed four rebounds. This season, Loyola is 5-0 when the 6-foot-4 guard scores six or more points, and last year, he lit up DePaul for 14 points, three boards, two assists and three steals. Crisman, who is has connected on seven of his last eight (.875) field goal tries, is tallying 7.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg in the last three road 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 25-2 (.926) when leading at the half since the start of the 2010-11 season. Since the outset of the 2008-09 campaign, the Ramblers are 46-7 (.868) 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.
SUB-SIXTY SPELLS SUCCESS
Since the start of the 2004-05 campaign, Loyola has posted a 55-13 (.809) record when it holds its opponent to fewer than 60 points.
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 as a team 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 1,028 consecutive Loyola men's basketball games heading into Saturday's contest at DePaul. Hired prior to the 1977-78 season, Hitcho has not missed a Rambler game in 36 years, witnessing 476 victories.
COLLECTING WINS AND VOTES
For the third straight week, Loyola is receiving votes in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 Poll. The Ramblers totaled 10 points this week and are one of five Horizon League teams - UIC (No. 17), Valparaiso (No. 18), Detroit (RV), and Wright State (RV) - to be ranked or receiving votes. Creighton (11-1) sits atop this week's Mid-Major Top 25 Poll.
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.