Illinois State men’s basketball (13-11, 6-6) battled the Loyola Ramblers (9-15, 4-8 Missouri Valley) Sunday night at Redbird Arena and was defeated, 79-69.
Leading the Redbirds offensively were Paris Lee and Daishon Knight, sinking 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Loyola came out of the gate strong, putting up a 15-5 lead, making six out of their first seven shots, including four shots beyond-the-arc from Christian Thomas. Their continued efforts resulted in a shooting percentage of 55 percent against ISU’s 45 percent.
“They came out ready to play, they lost a tough home game last [Thursday], they’ve been very good at home, they came out ready to compete,” ISU head coach Dan Muller said of Loyola.
Loyola was the first to score at the 19:28 mark with a layup. ISU first made it onto the board one minute in, thanks to a three-pointer by Knight, assisted by Bobby Hunter.
A significant Loyola effort, coupled with a layup by Lee brought the score to 15-5 before the Redbirds called a timeout.
Reggie Lynch closed the gap further with a layup, assisted by Kaza Keane and a freethrow. Loyola answered with a three-pointer, raising the score 20-12 with 10:31 left in the first half.
Loyola continued to stretch its lead with a jumpshot and two layups before Lynch shut down the run with two freethrows.
A foul by Lynch upped Loyola by two thanks to Rambler Nick Osborne. Loyola led ISU 32-15 with under five minutes remaining in the half.
Knight and Hunter contributed to the Redbirds’ next four points, during which the Ramblers scored five, maintaining the lead.
Lee sank a free throw at the end of the half, sending the Redbirds into the locker room with a 37-20 deficit.
“We just got behind and we dug ourselves a huge hole, showed some great fight in the second half … and we cut it to nine or whatever and we just couldn’t sustain that,” Muller said.
Less than three minutes into the second half, a Loyola dunk by Osborne showed that the Ramblers were not tiring out.
Nick Zeisloft quickly answered with a three, assisted by Lee. Knight and Lee contributed six points, but Loyola remained firmly in the lead with a 43-29 lead at the 15:50 mark. A Hunter layup and a Zeisloft trey brought Loyola’s lead back down to single digits, until Rambler Jeff White countered with a 2-point free-throw effort.
Loyola’s lead remained in the double digits despite efforts by Tony Wills with a layup and two freethrows.
A layup and a freethrow by Zach Lofton cut the Rambler’s lead down by two, but Loyola still sat comfortably in the lead, 54-41 with just under ten minutes left to play.
Lofton and Lee fought to bring the Redbirds back into the game with freethrows, however Loyola’s momentum carried them on a double-digit lead for the remainder of the contest.
Two Lee three-pointers upped ISU’s score, only to be answered by Rambler Milton Doyle, resulting in a 70-54 score.
Two successful free-throw performances by Hunter and Knight, along with layups from Keane and Hunter closed the gap in scores slightly with two minutes left on the clock.
Samuel sunk a three-pointer and a layup with the help of Knight and closed out the game with a jumpshot at the 0:21 mark.
ISU fell ten short of the Loyola Ramblers with a final score of 79-69.
“One thing that is not okay with me is that we’re becoming a good home team and a bad road team … I have to figure out how to do a better job of making sure on the road we’re prepared to compete,” Muller said.
The Redbirds resume road-play Wednesday against Evansville. Tipoff is slated for 7:05 p.m.