GAME NOTES: Horizon League rivals Loyola-Chicago and Cleveland State get together at the Wolstein Center on Wednesday night.
After a 63-54 win in its Horizon League opener against Valparaiso on Jan. 2 brought its overall record to an impressive 10-3, Loyola has plummeted in the standings with four straight conference losses. The Ramblers recovered from that skid with a 66-63 overtime win versus cross-town rival Chicago State in a non-conference bout the last time out.
Cleveland State has dropped back-to-back road games to Milwaukee (69-57) and Green Bay (77-50) to fall to 10-10 overall and 2-4 in league play. The Vikings return home for this matchup however, where they have won seven of eight games this season.
Loyola leads the all-time series with CSU, 22-19, but the Vikings have won the last nine meetings.
Loyola led wire-to-wire in its recent clash with Chicago State, even extending its advantage to as many as 14 in the second half before it allowed the Cougars to tie the game on a 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, but the Ramblers once again never trailed in the extra session on their way to the three-point win. They shot a solid 44.6 percent from the field in the triumph and captured the rebounding battle by a 43-29 margin. Ben Averkamp (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Christian Thomas (12 points 13 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles, while Jordan Hicks chipped in with 13 points and Joe Crisman finished with eight points and six assists. Averkamp has been one of the Horizon League's best players this season, ranking fifth in both scoring (15.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.5 rpg), and third in blocks (1.3 bpg). Devon Turk is Loyola's next-best scoring option at 8.3 ppg, making greater than 45 percent of his 3-point attempts (36-of-79). The Ramblers haven't been a strong shooting squad, netting 62.4 ppg on 42.5 percent efficiency from the field, but it has made up for it with the league's second-ranked scoring defense (58.9 ppg).
Cleveland State never stood a chance in its 27-point loss to Green Bay, as it was outshot from the field, 54.8 percent to 34.6 percent, and was dominated on the glass, 41-18. Bryn Forbes scored 12 points, but did so on a disappointing 3-of-13 effort from the field. Junior Lomomba also put up a dozen points, but he too struggled with his shot (4-of-12). The season has not gone the way the Vikings had planned at either end of the court, as they rank in the lower-half of the league in both scoring offense (64.7 ppg) and scoring defense (69.1 ppg). The squad has become bereft of scoring since losing Anton Grady (13.7 ppg) to a knee injury earlier in the season. Bryn Forbes (11.3 ppg), Charlie Lee (10.8 ppg), and Tim Kamczyc (9.6 ppg) do most of their damage from 3-point range, combining to net 97 of the team's 128 long-range buckets. Lee is also one of the Horizon's top floor generals, handing out a league-best 5.1 apg.
Loyola's defensive game plan is sure to slow down Cleveland State's 3-point shooters, but the Vikings have played very well at home and should be able to get back on the right track against a struggling Ramblers squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cleveland State 64, Loyola-Chicago 59
01/23 10:39:55 ET
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