Wright State (12-4) at Loyola-Chicago (10-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, January 11, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gentile Arena (4,486) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: WSU 8-0, Loyola 5-1. Away Record: WSU 3-3, Loyola 4-3. Neutral Record: WSU 1-1, Loyola 1-1. Conference Record: WSU 3-0, Loyola 1-2. Series Record: Wright State leads, 22-15.
GAME NOTES: The Wright State Raiders attempt to stay perfect in Horizon League play on Friday night when they travel to the Windy City to take on the Loyola- Chicago Ramblers.
Since losing at nationally-ranked Cincinnati on Dec. 22 (68-58), Wright State has ripped off four straight wins, and its 69-53 triumph over Cleveland State on Wednesday moved it to 3-0 in conference action. It is looking to go 4-0 in the Horizon League for the first time since 2005-06, and at 12-4 overall, the Raiders are off to their best start in more than 20 years.
It wasn't long ago that Loyola-Chicago was one of the nation's hottest teams, as it strung together eight wins in nine matchups from mid-November to early January, but it has recently come back to Earth with back-to-back losses. The Ramblers fell at Green Bay on Wednesday (58-45), but they welcome a return to Gentile Arena where they are 5-1 this season.
Wright State has captured 11 of the last 12 meetings with Loyola to take a 22-15 advantage in the all-time series.
Points have been difficult to come by for Wright State, as its 62.0 ppg ranks last in the Horizon League, but it has been able to rise to first place in the standings thanks to an outstanding effort at the defensive end where it allows opponents to score a league-low 55.5 ppg. The Raiders had one of their better shooting performances in the 16-point win over Cleveland State, making nearly 45 percent of their field goal attempts while forcing the Vikings into nearly as many turnovers (16) as they had field goals (19). Jerran Young was a spark plug coming off the bench, scoring 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including 3- of-4 from 3-point range). Kendall Griffin (12 points) and Matt Vest (eight points, six assists, five rebounds) were also effective in the win. Cole Darling is the only WSU player to score in double figures on a nightly basis with his 10.6 ppg, although Reggie Arceneaux (9.7 ppg, 3.1 apg) and Miles Dixon (9.7 ppg) are on the doorstep.
Loyola has a very similar makeup to Wright State, as it oftentimes struggles at the offensive end of the court (62.5 ppg) while holding foes down at the other end (58.3 ppg). The squad put forth another strong defensive effort against Green Bay, forcing 17 turnovers, but unfortunately it did not have the offensive firepower to back it up, as it shot below 32 percent from the field and made just two trips to the foul line. Only Devon Turk scored in double- digits for the Ramblers, as he shot 3-of-8 from 3-point range on his way to 11 points. On the season, Ben Averkamp has been the squad's unquestioned leader, contributing in all phases of the game with 15.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg and 0.9 spg while shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 82.9 percent from the free throw line. The Ramblers have few others on which to rely consistently, as Cully Payne (8.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) and Turk (8.6 ppg) are the next-best scoring options.
With the league's two top-rated defenses (and two lowest-ranked offenses) going head-to-head, points are sure to come at a premium. Loyola has played very well on its home floor, but it has been trending downward of late, while Wright State has been rolling along. It should be tight throughout, but expect the Raiders to pull out a tough road win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wright State 59, Loyola-Chicago 56
01/11 10:35:28 ET