GAME NOTES: The Furman Paladins step into Gentile Arena for a non-conference matchup with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers on Saturday.
Furman enters the game with a 2-4 record despite having played all but one of its games at home. The Paladins got an early start in Southern Conference play on Wednesday night, as they opened their league schedule with a 79-65 setback to Western Carolina. It was the third loss in the last four games for the Paladins, who will now hit the road for six of their next seven.
Loyola is off to a 5-2 start and enters the weekend riding a three-game winning streak. The Ramblers' latest outing resulted in an 81-78 triumph over Tennessee Tech on Wednesday. Like Furman, they too are about to embark on some travels as four of their next five games after this tilt will be played on the road.
The only previous meeting between these two schools happened last November at Timmons Arena, where the Paladins claimed a 63-51 victory. This marks Furman's first trip to the state of Illinois in 14 years.
Turnovers have become a problem for Furman. The team averaged 14.8 turnovers through its first four games before turning the ball over a season-high 25 times against Mercer on Sunday and then 19 times against WCU. In Wednesday's loss, the Catamounts turned those 19 turnovers into a 17-4 edge in points off turnovers. Compounding the sloppy ball handling was the fact that Furman shot just 36.2 percent for the game, including a 2-of-16 effort from beyond the arc (.125). Colin Reddick paced four players in double figures with 15 points and nine rebounds in the loss. Through six games, Reddick is averaging a team-best 12.5 points and 6.3 boards and is shooting 54.9 percent from the floor. However, he has not gotten a ton of help from his supporting cast as no other Paladin is scoring in double figures.
Loyola is led by Ben Averkamp, a second-team All-Horizon League pick a year ago who is currently averaging 17.4 ppg and 6.6 rpg. Averkamp is shooting at a 53.8-percent clip from the floor and he has made 30-of-33 free throws (.909). Similar to Reddick at Furman, Averkamp has carried much of the scoring load for Loyola. He has taken nearly twice the amount of shots as any of his teammates, and 9.8 ppg separate Averkamp from second-leading scorer Jordan Hicks. However, the Ramblers are coming off a season-high 81 points in Wednesday's win over Tennessee Tech. Cully Payne stepped up with 18 points to go along with five assists and four steals. Averkamp scored 16 and Hicks finished with 15 points in the victory. The Ramblers drained 8-of-19 3- pointers (.421) and forced 20 turnovers for the game.
If the Ramblers play like they did earlier this week, they should be able to win this one rather easily, especially if Furman continues turning the ball over at such a high rate.