Loyola defeats UIC for 6th straight time
By Mike Pankow
December 4, 2018
The former UIC coach saw the Flames drop their sixth consecutive meeting to the crosstown Ramblers at Credit Union 1 in front of a raucous crowd for both sides.
Collins said after the game, "We dominated these guys when I was here." But the Flames' winningest coach added he likes what current coach Steve McClain is doing with the program and enjoys the style of play the team employs.
Loyola, UIC's former Horizon League rival, has enjoyed a renaissance over the last few seasons, including a Missouri Valley Conference championship and a magical run to the Final Four last season.
The Flames had a couple of prolonged cold spells offensively and that was a big no-no against the fundamentally-sound Ramblers.
One-time UIC recruiting target Cameron Krutwig, Marques Townes and Clayton Custer each scored 16 points and freshman Cooper Kaifes added 12 points as Loyola displayed another example of its trademark efficiency, shooting 56.9 percent, in a 73-64 victory over the Flames.
"They're a very-well coached team," said UIC junior forward Jordan Blount. "They don't take very many bad shots. The biggest thing for us was try to remain disciplined. They got a lot of their points coming down to the last couple seconds of the shot clock, lot of back doors. It's heartbreaking. It was a different style than what we're used to."
Junior Marcus Ottey scored a game-high 20 points (on 10-for-12 shooting) on a variety of drives to the basket to lead the Flames, a positive sign for player with all-conference potential.
"I thought Marcus did a great job of finishing. He grew up today," McClain said. "This is a type of team he's struggled against. Loyola knew he was going to drive it every time, yet he still found angles, he still found ways to get there and score the ball. I don't think he took one (bad) shot. He's struggled against teams that pack the lane and he did a great job of handling it."
Godwin Boahen added 16 points on 6-for-17 shooting and Blount, who Collins also lauded, contributed nine points, 11 rebounds and five assists for the Flames.
The Ramblers put a lot of their focus defensively on stopping UIC point guard Tarkus Ferguson, holding him to nine points (on 3-for-12 shooting) and four assists. Loyola didn't get to see Ferguson last season, because he missed a month with a foot injury.
"He's a terrific player and we were very well aware of him," Loyola coach Porter Moser said. "When he came back (from injury) last year, he was the difference for their team. He's so long, he's a bigger point guard. He kind of reminds us of (former Loyola guard) Milton Doyle. A longer guard that can see over the defense, make shots, drive by you and pass it."
The Flames kept it close early on, trailing just 11-9 after Blount's reverse layup, but then UIC went scoreless for 7 minutes, 7 seconds.
Krutwing scored six points and Kaifes drilled a 3-pointer during a 13-0 run that put the Ramblers ahead 24-9 with 8:19 left in the first half.
UIC responded with a 7-0 run, started by Ferguson's three-point play, to bring the Flames back to within double digits.
The Flames couldn't get much closer before the break, trailing 37-28 at halftime after a Custer layup in the final seconds.
The second half was a gut-punch to the Flames as they went scoreless for the first 3:15 as Townes scored six points during Loyola's 10-0 burst for a 47-28 lead.
"They have a great group of veteran guys like Custer, Krutwig and Townes," McClain said. "You noticed every time we got it close, the ball seemed to get to them and they made veteran plays."
The lead remained in double figures most of the time after that. Boahen hit a 3-pointer with 42.4 seconds left to pull UIC to within 70-62. Ottey's layup moments later made it a seven-point game, but there was no doubt remaining in the outcome.
"We didn't have a great game offensively, but I'm going to give their defense credit for it," McClain said. "We also missed some wide-open shots. You're going to have nights where that happens. That's where you've got to lock in on the defensive end, but we just had too many breakdowns."
FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC has not defeated Loyola since a 61-59 home win on Jan. 16, 2013 when the Ramblers were still part of the Horizon League and Howard Moore was coaching the Flames. ... McClain dropped to 0-4 against the Ramblers. Collins was 21-11 all-time against Loyola, including a 76-75 overtime victory over the Ramblers in the 2002 Horizon League championship game. ... A major positive development for the Flames was their 37-28 rebounding advantage, with the plus-9 edge the best UIC has enjoyed all season. ... Loyola was missing sophomore guard Lucas Williamson, a Whitney Young product, after he suffered a broken hand in its loss to Nevada on Tuesday night. ... Reserve forward Jacob Wiley grabbed six rebounds for the Flames and has averaged 5.3 in his last three games.