GAME NOTES: The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers try to start their Horizon League season with back-to-back victories for the first time since 2003-2004 as they welcome the Youngstown State Penguins to Gentile Arena for conference action.
YSU was unable to find its desired result in its Horizon League Opener on Wednesday as it was defeated 65-60 by Illinois-Chicago. The Penguins have been playing much better overall since they closed out November with four straight losses as they have won five of their last seven to built an 8-6 record. YSU has been efficient on the offensive end, where it is producing 72.8 points per contest to rank second in the Horizon League.
The Ramblers exceeded expectations by finishing their non-conference slate with a 9-3 record. They continued to surprise on Wednesday as they took down the defending Horizon League regular season champion Valparaiso, 63-54, to extend their current winning streak to four. Loyola has been able to notch five victories at Gentile Arena in as many games. Loyola, which plays at a much slower tempo, is one of the least productive offensive teams in the conference with 63.5 ppg, but it is near the top on the other end of the court, yielding just 57.5 ppg.
Loyola and Youngstown State are clashing for the 28th time in a very tightly contested rivalry. The Ramblers are 10-4 in Gentile Arena and own a slim 14-13 all-time series advantage. However, the Penguins swept the season series in 2011-12.
Junior guard Kendrick Perry continued to lead YSU in its last outing as he went 7-of-12 from the field for 19 points and also grabbed nine boards. The 6-0 guard is leading the squad with 16.4 points and 4.6 assists per contest, but his strong effort versus the Flames was not enough to lift the team to a decision. Perry was not the only one in double figures versus UIC as Blake Allen recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Kamren Belin scored 11 points and D.J. Cole added 10. Allen (12.1 ppg) and Damian Eargle (11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg) are both contributors on the offensive end regularly.
Ben Averkamp finished with 16 points, five assists, and five rebounds to lift Loyola past Valpo on Wednesday. The senior forward has been the go-to-guy for the Ramblers all season as he is leading them in scoring (15.7), rebounding (6.5), and blocks (1.6). Christian Thomas contributed 14 points and six rebounds versus the Crusaders, while Cully Payne also made an impact by scoring 13 points and dishing out seven assists. Although none of Averkamp's teammates are joining him with a double-digit scoring average, sharpshooter Devon Turk (26-of-52 3PT) and Payne (8.8 ppg, 4.7 apg) have both been keys to the success.
The team that controls the pace of this one will come out on top. While Loyola does not have a myriad of options offensively, it has performed well on defense and also on the glass to keep winning. The Penguins need to submit a strong shooting performance to force the Ramblers out of their comfort zone.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Youngstown State 71, Loyola-Chicago 66
01/05 10:37:20 ET
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