CARBONDALE — Loyola’s offense was brilliant at times in the Ramblers 75-56 win over Southern Illinois. Loyola scorched the nets early, hitting 14 of its first 18 shots.
As good as the Ramblers were offensively, they were nearly as effective defensively, particularly in the first half.
The Salukis stayed close in the first half on the strength of 54 percent shooting. SIU’s numbers plummeted in the second half. The Salukis hit just 7-of-23 shots in the second half. Assists dropped from 10 in the first half to three in the second half.
With the exception of Kavion Pippen, the Salukis got virtually nothing in the paint. SIU usually outscores opponents in the paint, but Wednesday night the Ramblers enjoyed a 42-22 advantage.
“We talked about it a lot,” said Loyola coach Porter Moser. “We really made an emphasis of it. You really watch their games and they do such a good job of getting deep in the paint, whether it’s with the post-catch or the drive, or they post up their guards. They post up (Sean) Lloyd, they post up (Armon) Fletcher. So we were obviously aware of it and on top of it, but it’s one thing to talk about it and another thing to do it.”
At times it appeared as if all five Ramblers were in the lane, but Moser said his team stayed in a man-to-man.
“We were switching,” he said. “They were running a dribble-weave and we were just switching everything. When you’re switching, switching, switching it almost looks like a zone, but it wasn’t. We were just switching their dribble drive. They can really go downhill. We were trying to level it off because (Aaron) Cook, Lloyd, Fletcher, (Tyler) Smithpeters, they can really go downhill on you.”
And, the defense was effective. Other than Pippen’s seven field goals, the Salukis had few scoring opportunities in the paint.
“They kind of made us a little stagnant,” Fletcher said. “We were told to cut to the basket, but they were shrinking the floor so much. They did a good job of studying film and really concentrating on what to stop and what to do to combat our offense.
“We tried to come off the ball screens. There was a hard hedge, but it was kind of like a trap so you had to send Pip to the top of the key and the flash wasn’t there. We have to come back and watch film and figure out something to combat that. If other teams do that they’ll do the exact same thing.”
SIU coach Barry Hinson conceded the Ramblers played solid defense, but said SIU hurt itself with selfish play, pointing to the three assists in the second half.
“I think the stats speak for themselves,” he said. “We’ll have an opportunity to watch it on film. You have to play small ball, especially against really good teams. We got to the point, especially there late, we just started jacking shots. KP can score every time we get the ball to him. We had times tonight we wouldn’t even throw him the ball.
“I think we had a lot to do with it. We knew who our best player on the floor was tonight, and we didn’t get him the ball.”
The Salukis still hold second place in the MVC. They will close the regular season at Evansville on Saturday.