Loyola-Chicago (15-15) at Youngstown State (16-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 5, 7:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Beeghly Center (6,500) -- Youngstown, Ohio. Television: HLN. Home Record: Loyola 8-6, YSU 10-4. Away Record: Loyola 6-8, YSU 6-8. Neutral Record: Loyola 1-1, YSU 0-2. Conference Record: Loyola 5-11, YSU 7-9. Series Record: Youngstown State leads, 15-14.
GAME NOTES: Postseason basketball gets underway in the Buckeye State on Tuesday night, as the Youngstown State Penguins entertain the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago in the first round of the 34th annual Horizon League Tournament.
The Penguins, one of two current teams in the HL (Valparaiso) that has never won the conference tournament, are the sixth seed in the event this year after putting up a 7-9 mark in league action. However, YSU dropped two straight and three of the last four games of the regular season as it gets ready for the most important game of the campaign.
Meanwhile the Ramblers, who claimed the trophy back in 1985 versus Oral Roberts when this was known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, are the seventh seed this time around thanks to a 5-11 mark in conference play. One of the youngest teams in the country, Loyola actually posted an eight-game improvement over last season.
YSU owns a slim 15-14 advantage in the all-time series, sweeping the season series by a combined three points to give the Penguins a four-game win streak versus Loyola.
The survivor of this meeting will head to the second round of the tournament on Friday where they will take on third-seeded Wright State.
Of the 11 league setbacks suffered by the Ramblers this season, more than half (six) came by three points or less, so more often than not Loyola was competitive right up until the end. One of two players to have started every game for the program, Christian Thomas has been one of the most improved players in the league this season with his 12.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg, shooting 56.3 percent from the floor. Now coming off the bench, Ben Averkamp is also recognized as one of the top performers in the Horizon as he averages 14.9 ppg and 6.4 rpg, although he might want to rethink his position as a 3-point threat (.293). The Ramblers are scoring only 64.5 ppg on the season, but that's still better than the 62.4 ppg they are allowing.
Right off the bat, the bad news for the Penguins is that they are without one of their key performers in Kendrick Perry who is out with a knee injury. The leading scorer on the team with 16.9 ppg, Perry is still the top man in terms of assists as well with 112 and steals with 53, so not having him at both ends of the floor hurts YSU. Damian Eargle is ready to go though, bringing his 11.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg along for the ride. Eargle is also one of the top interior defenders in the league with his 86 blocked shots. Blake Allen (11.6 ppg) and Kamren Belin (10.4 ppg) help to supply an offense that is producing 70.8 ppg on the campaign, but still a lot of that had to do with Perry.
With a key figure unavailable, the Penguins might be hurting in this contest. The fact that the first two meetings of the season were so close are also an indication that Loyola is probably poised to exact some revenge on Tuesday night.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Loyola-Chicago 66, Youngstown State 60
03/05 10:44:08 ET