Dec. 1—When the Missouri Valley Conference coaches decided to play one December conference game to help alleviate schedule congestion, no one knew at the time that Indiana State's first MVC game would represent it's last conference trip to Loyola.
Loyola is leaving the MVC to join the Atlantic 10 Conference the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The MVC is still seeking a replacement or replacements.
ISU coach Josh Schertz doesn't have a problem with playing early conference games — just not this particular conference game.
"I think playing Loyola at Loyola is bad," Schertz jested. "I don't mind [the early conference game]. It creates some intrigue. It creates some opportunity early in the year. For our individual situation, it's not ideal. We have a lot of growing to do."
ISU has been making annual trips to Gentile Arena since the 2013-14 season. ISU has won three of seven MVC meetings at Loyola's home gym — the teams did not play there in 2021 due to the pandemic-influenced schedule that had the Ramblers play two games at Hulman Center.
The most memorable ISU win was a 61-57 victory in 2018. That game, also early in the MVC season, was a victory for ISU over Loyola's Final Four team.
The challenge for the Sycamores on this trip is similar to that the 2018 team faced. The Ramblers are once again one of the league favorites and they boast a bit of a new look this season.
Drew Valentine took over as the Ramblers' coach after Porter Moser decamped to Oklahoma. One thing hasn't changed — Loyola still plays excellent defense. Though center Cameron Krutwig is gone, guard Lucas Williamson erases opposing scorers as a matter of course. Loyola has only given up 14.1 two-point buckets per game, 33rd-best in the country.
One thing that has changed? Loyola has become one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. Loyola (5-2) has never been bad at shooting threes, but they shoot more of them now and from more sources.
Ryan Schwieger, Williamson, Aher Uguak, Braden Norris and Tate Hall all average more than one 3-point make per game. The Ramblers' 42.2% 3-point shooting is 10th-best in the nation.
Not good for the Sycamores, considering they've struggled to defend the 3-point line in recent games.
"In our last three games, teams are 35 of 78 from the 3-point line. We've had defenses designed to stop the 3-point shot, but we haven't been doing it. Sometimes we don't help, sometimes we over-help, which is just as bad as not helping. We've been trying to drill home concepts [to the players] and get back to basics," Schertz said.
Schertz is hoping the fact that Loyola has shot the 3-point shot so well will reinforce to the Sycamores that they need to be on their game.
"There's a lot to take away from preparing for them and understanding that if we're not completely dialed in. We need to have the proper level of mental focus," Schertz said.
ISU (3-4) will be looking to bounce back after a poor performance in Saturday's 97-75 loss at Ball State. Among other things, ISU's defensive effort was poor against the Cardinals.
"You can lose games, but I don't think the way we approached the game was acceptable. Our preparation was good. I thought we'd play well, but we were terrible. We have to get grittier, we have to get more disciplined," Schertz said.
ISU at Loyola
Tipoff — 8 p.m. Wednesday at Gentile Arena, Chicago.
Broadcasts — Webstream: ESPN+. Radio: WZJK-FM (105.5). Twitter: @TribStarTodd.
Records — ISU 3-4, 0-0, Loyola 5-2, 0-0.
Series — Tied 17-17. Loyola won two of three against ISU in 2021.
Last time out — ISU lost 97-75 at Ball State last Saturday. Loyola beat Arizona State 77-59 last Friday.
Next — ISU plays at Loyola and Ball State plays at Western Illinois on Wednesday.