Kent State (14-12) at Loyola-Chicago (14-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentile Arena (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: Kent St. 9-6, Loyola 7-5. Away Record: Kent St. 5-6, Loyola 6-7. Neutral Record: Kent St. 0-0, Loyola 1-1. Conference Record: Kent St. 5-7, Loyola 4-10. Series Record: Loyola-Chicago leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: The Kent State Golden Flashes have made the trek to the Windy City to challenge the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago in a BracketBuster event at Gentile Arena.
Kent State comes in sporting a 14-12 overall record, but the team is two games under .500 in Mid-American Conference play. Their league ledger has the Golden Flashes tied for third place in the East Division, which will come down to a battle between Akron (12-0) and Ohio (11-1). KSU is simply trying to do all it can to improve its seeding in the upcoming MAC Tournament, and the Flashes are fresh off a 78-75 overtime loss at Ohio, the setback putting an end to their recent two-game win streak. Kent State has lost four straight road games.
Loyola has posted the same number of wins as Kent State, but the team has had an even tougher time in Horizon League action, stumbling its way to a 4-10 conference mark. The Ramblers have lost five of their last six games, the most recent of which being an 85-76 setback at home to Valparaiso on Tuesday. Loyola is 7-5 at home this season, but two of its last three and five of its last seven at Gentile Arena have resulted in defeat.
Loyola has won three of the previous four matchups with Kent State, and this is the first meeting since 1996 (a 74-59 Loyola victory).
Kent State is one of the more productive offensive teams in the MAC this season, putting up 71.3 ppg behind a league-leading 36.3 percent effort from 3-point range. Chris Evans (17.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 51 steals, .505 FG percentage) has enjoyed a successful season in several different areas, as he ranks fourth in the league in scoring, rebounding and in steals, while checking in eighth in field goal percentage. Randal Holt (13.8 ppg, .370 3-point FG percentage) has also been highly productive for KSU, which hit nearly 50 percent of its total shots, including 7-of-16 from beyond the arc, in nearly knocking off Ohio earlier in the week. Evans recorded a huge double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Kris Brewer tacked on 14 points and handed out five assists. Unfortunately, the Flashes were guilty of 22 turnovers, off which OU scored 26 points, and they went just 14-of-25 at the charity stripe. Conversely, the Bobcats were guilty of only 10 miscues, and they scored 20 points at the foul line.
Christian Thomas scored 15 points, leading four players in double figures, but it wasn't enough as Loyola dropped a nine-point decision to visiting Valparaiso earlier this week. Jordan Hicks added 13 points and combined with Thomas to secure 16 rebounds, while Devon Turk and Jeff White chipped in with 12 points apiece for the Ramblers, who knocked down 46.4 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a 6-of-16 showing from 3-point land. Valpo nailed 54.7 percent of its field goal attempts, draining 10-of-20 3-point tries along the way. Loyola's leading scorer, Ben Averkamp (15.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg), missed the game with a concussion, and he is listed as doubtful for this one as well. That puts the onus on Thomas to continue to elevate his game, but seeing as how he nets only 10.9 ppg, it's probably asking a bit too much. Even with Averkamp in the lineup the Ramblers are far from an offensive juggernaut, the team averaging just 63.3 ppg. Fortunately, they play pretty well at the defensive end (61.7 ppg).
Despite playing on the road, expect Kent State to come out fired up and the Flashes should have enough in the tank to knock off the offensively-challenged Ramblers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kent State 65, Loyola-Chicago 58
02/23 10:31:13 ET