Missouri State (11-2) at Loyola-Chicago (5-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, January 5, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joseph J. Gentile Center (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Missouri St. 8-0, Loyola 4-1. Away Record: Missouri St. 2-1, Loyola 0-6. Neutral Record: Missouri St. 1-1, Loyola 1-1. Conference Record: Missouri St. 1-0, Loyola 0-1. Series Record: Loyola-Chicago leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Missouri State Bears try to continue their hot start to the 2013-14 campaign, as they clash with the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago in Missouri Valley Conference action at the Gentile Center on Sunday afternoon.
Outside of a pair of defeats against Virginia and nationally-ranked Louisville, the Bears have been cruising along this season with an impressive 11 victories. The latest win for the team was a 78-70 overtime affair in the conference opener versus Illinois State three nights ago.
As for the Ramblers, now members of the MVC after coming over from the Horizon League, they began conference play on New Year's Day and bowed to Indiana State by a 70-58 final in Terre Haute. The setback was the third in a row, and marks the sixth in as many tries in true road games this season.
Loyola won the only previous meeting between the programs back in 1964, an 87-83 final in Chicago.
The Bears were dealt a dose of reality in their conference opener when they were forced to go to overtime in order to take down the Redbirds. Jarmar Gulley accounted for a game-high 22 points as he shot 9-of-12 from the floor and knocked down both of his 3-point tries. Marcus Marshall pitched in with 14 points, Christian Kirk 13 and Keith Pickens eight points, to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists before fouling out.
A starter in eight of the nine games in which he has appeared, Marshall is tops on the unit in scoring with 14.0 ppg, even through he is shooting worse from the field overall (.390) than he is behind the 3-point line (.405). Gulley accounts for another 13.5 ppg, is second on the squad with 5.3 rpg and first with 24 steals for a team that is holding the competition under 70 ppg.
Even after shooting a stellar 66.7 percent from the field in the first half against Indiana State, the Ramblers trailed by four at the break, so it only made sense that the visitors would end up on the losing end once they converted just 37.0 percent in the second half. Christian Thomas led the attack for Loyola with 19 points, shooting 8-of-12 from the floor, followed by Cody Johnson with 15 points and three blocked shots off the bench. The team was outscored at the free-throw line 15-3, the 12-point difference being the overall scoring margin in the meeting.
Playing almost 34 minutes per game, it only makes sense that Thomas is one of the leading scorers for Loyola with his 14.4 ppg, although he dies trail Milton Doyle in that department by 0.1 ppg. Thomas, who is the leader on the glass with 6.5 rpg, is shooting 57.1 percent from the floor for the group that is hitting field goals at a 48.3 percent clip.
The Bears are going to find that the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference will not sit by and watch Missouri State try and cruise through the campaign, although there's little the Ramblers can do about that right now.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri State 69, Loyola-Chicago 61
01/05 10:59:45 ET