Jan. 2, 2013
CHICAGO - Loyola erased a 14-point deficit in the second half but Eastern Illinois came up with a huge steal in the final seconds of a tie game and converted some clutch free throws to escape with a 72-69 win over the Ramblers tonight at Gentile Arena. Simone Law led Loyola (4-8) with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Panthers improve to 7-6 with the win.
"It was a tough ballgame to lose but I cannot fault our effort tonight," said head coach Eric Simpson. "We battled back in the second half, using our defense, but just did not execute the way we needed to down the stretch."
Both teams came out hot and five points each from Monica Albano and Abby Skube gave Loyola a 15-12 lead at the first media timeout. Neither team led by more than three points until Eastern Illinois opened a 34-29 lead with 4:00 to go in the period. Five straight points from Law erased that deficit and forged the fifth deadlock of the half (34-all) but the Panthers closed the half strong, scoring the last nine points on three three-pointers to take a 43-34 lead into halftime. The visitors knocked down 7-of-12 (58%) from the arc in the opening 20 minutes while Law was strong in the paint for the Ramblers, pouring in a team-high 12 points (5-6 FGs) in the half.
The Panthers stayed hot in the early minutes of the second half, extending the lead to 14 (55-41) on a Sydney Mitchell basket. The Ramblers did not quit and battled back immediately behind Law, who scored six consecutive points to bring the deficit back into single digits. Loyola continued to chip away and Albano had five points in an 8-0 run later that made it a 63-62 game with 6:20 left. Eastern Illinois managed to hang on to the lead until Lyndsey Booker knocked down a three-pointer from the right wing to even the game at 69 with 1:12 on the clock. The Ramblers dug in to get a stop defensively and Law rebounded an Ayrealle Beavers miss on the ensuing offensive possession to give LU a chance at the win. However, Jordyne Crunk came up with a steal on the inbounds pass coming out of a timeout and was fouled with 12.4 seconds left. She knocked down both free throws to give EIU a two-point lead and Taylor Johnson got a good look in the final seconds but could not get it to go. Crunk hit another free throw to account for the final margin.
Law finished with her fifth double-double of the season, racking up 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Ramblers. She was joined in double figures by Albano (15), Johnson (13 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Patrice King (12). Kelsey Wyss led EIU with 17 points.
Loyola wraps up its non-conference slate on Saturday with a 1 p.m. CT game at Eastern Michigan.