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Ben Richardson's injury helped Lucas Williamson last season, and Loyola's men's basketball team is about to find out if Williamson's broken hand in November had a similar impact.

Williamson, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophoore guard from Chicago, started the Ramblers' first seven games before the injury. The team's fourth-leading scorer (8.9 points per game) and second-leading rebounder at 7.1 per game, got the cast off his shooting hand Tuesday, Loyola coach Porter Moser said on Monday's coaches teleconference.

Williamson returned to practice Sunday, was expected to participate Monday, and could go when the Ramblers (9-6, 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference) try to stay tied for first place in the league at Evansville (7-8, 1-1) on Tuesday night. Loyola hosts Illinois State (8-7, 1-1) on Saturday in Chicago.

"He's practicing (Monday). He practiced yesterday, and we'll see. It'll be a game-time decision," Moser said. "Throughout this week I definitely see him coming back. What he brings us is heart, toughness, experience. He's been on that platform and played in big games. He is our best defender, and that's what he brings."

The absence of Richardson, the Valley's defensive player of the year last season, opened the door for early minutes for Williamson and others. Williamson's move to the bench opened a similar door for freshmen guards Isaiah Bujdoso and Cooper Kaifes, who are each averaging over 18 minutes a game for the MVC favorites.

"I saw Isaiah Bujdoso make some big plays in the second half in the Drake game. Cooper made some big plays," Moser said. "Eight (points) and four (points) each one of 'em. One had eight and one had four, that's 12 points from two freshmen in a conference battle. They're emerging, and that's only going to help us."

McGill off the boards: SIU junior guard Eric McGill has three double-doubles this season, all in the last five games.

The 6-2 guard, who leads the Salukis at 6.4 rebounds per game, is tied for third in the country for the most double-doubles by players 6-2 or smaller. McGill scored a career-high 19 points against Murray State and had his career-high in rebounds against Missouri State (12).

McGill scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Racers, had 13 and 10 at No. 14 Buffalo, and put up 14 and 12 in the win over the Bears. For the season, McGill is averaging 11.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and a team-high 1.77 steals a game.

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todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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