NIU men’s basketball played a low-scoring defense-oriented contest against Loyola University and came out on the wrong side of the ledger Saturday.
The Huskies (1-3) did a lot of things right in order to win the game, but Loyola (4-2) rode its hot hands and got clutch shots to keep it ahead throughout the majority of the game.
“I thought it was one of those defensive grinder games,” said NIU coach Mark Montgomery. “You have to give it up to Averkamp, their senior player. He came out and set the tone and made the plays to get them ahead.”
Senior forward Ben Averkamp was the sole scorer for Loyola throughout the first ten minutes of the first half, as he knocked down two 3-pointers and added a lay-up and a jumper to get the Ramblers up 10-8 near the halfway point.
Sophomore forward Christian Thomas of Loyola would add four free throws and a lay-up to finalize the first half scoring for them.
The Huskies were playing catch-up from the opening tip, but trimmed the lead to just one for Loyola, behind a lay-up and an old-fashioned three point play by freshman guard Akeem Springs. Junior forward Aksel Bolin added a lay-up with a minute left to make it 16-15 going into halftime.
“Both teams are so young, your offense is what comes the slowest,” said Loyola coach Porter Moser. “It takes the most time to get going with this many new guys. I think Mark’s doing a phenomenal job of playing unbelievable physical play and having that mentality to crash the offensive glass.”
The Huskies came out and took their first lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Springs to start the second half. NIU would lead only one more time about two minutes later on a three-point play by freshman Darrell Bowie to put NIU up 23-22.
Loyola then increased its lead over the next nine minutes behind six made free throws and two long range shots. The Ramblers lead 41-29 with eight minutes left to play.
The Huskies capitalized on a Loyola lull, as they attempted to mount a comeback down by 12. They got as close as 46-38 with three minutes left to play after a jumper by Springs.
A miss from the Ramblers took a lot of time off the clock before Bolin sank a 3-pointer with 1:06 left to put NIU down by six, 48-42.
Time would be the villain as NIU could not get a turnover and was forced to play the foul game, as Loyola ultimately won 53-46.
“We need multiple scorers if you’re going to definitely win games like this,” Montgomery said. “He [Bolin] can take some pressure off of some of the younger guys if he can be aggressive. If it’s taking a three, if it’s getting to the basket, if it’s pulling up off the dribble, he’s a capable scorer to do that. We ask a lot of Aksel, but he is capable to score in double figures.”