The BracketBusters game brought Loyola and UIC different results. Even though both were on the road, the Flames got a road win at Missouri Valley Conference bottom-feeder Evansville, while the Ramblers couldn't handle the inside game of Creighton in Omaha.
Robo Kreps (left earlier this season against DePaul) hit a shot with 4.4 seconds remaining to lift UIC to their first road victory of the 2009-10 season. The 82-80 win also required a second-half comeback by the Flames and some rare offensive firepower. UIC rallied from a 14-point deficit and its final lead was the Flames' only lead of the second half.
Kreps finished with 28 points, 6 assists and 3 steals. He shot 9-18 from the field and 7-9 from the free throw line while playing all 40 minutes. Senior Spencer Stewart added a career-high 20 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He also had just one turnover in 40 minutes of action. Jeremy Buttell was the other UIC player in double-figures with 12 points and 6 boards.
The win is a good win for the Flames. It was a basement BracketBusters game. The only bracket UIC or Evansville will probably be busting this season are the Horizon League and Missouri Valley Conference tournament brackets, but this victory should give the Flames some confidence going forward. Maybe UIC can generate some momentum next weekend against Milwaukee and Green Bay before the conference tournament.
When the BracketBuster match-ups were announced people thought two things about Loyola's game against Creighton. First, that Loyola was lucky to be playing a Midwestern Jesuit school that has a large fan base in Chicago, because it should make for an entertaining return game. Second, that even though the Bluejays are having a down season, the team is still very dangerous.
Well, the Ramblers found out about that second thing in the second 20 minutes on Saturday. After trailing by 1-point at halftime the Ramblers were outscored 44-25 in the second half and dropped a 78-58 decision.
You don't see players like Kenny Lawson, Jr. very often in the Horizon League. In fact, you don't see players like Lawson often in the MVC either. The Ramblers weren't able to contain the Bluejays center as he scored 19 points in 22 minutes. He also grabbed 10 boards.
Creighton's depth probably was a factor in this game as well. The Bluejays played 12 players in the game, 10 for more than 10 minutes. It is the enviable type of depth that Loyola had for a while at the beginning of the season before injuries and performance for Jim Whitesell to shorten his bench. 8 players played the majority of the minutes for the Ramblers, and while that might not sound like a big difference, it probably contributed a bit to the tired legs.
Walt Gibler led the Ramblers with 15 points. Geoff McCammon scored 11 points and Terrance Hill had 12. Andy Polka grabbed 10 boards. Another bad sign for the Ramblers was the fact that point guard Courtney Stanley finished with more turnovers (5) than assists (3). That's usually a sign of a bad night for the Loyola offense. As a team the Ramblers finished with 16 turnovers compared to 11 assists.
With everyone who plays significant minutes, besides Marcus Thomas and Aric Van Weelden slated to return, Loyola will have to build for next season in the coming games. Whether the Ramblers can get back on track offensively will be important for the Horizon League tournament.
Speaking of the Horizon League, Loyola and UIC's split was very emblematic of the league as a whole. The league finished a disappointing 5-5 in its BracketBuster games. While Butler got a good win over Siena at home and Cleveland State crushed an overmatched Toledo team, there were bad losses like Valparaiso's trip to Bowling Green, where the Crusaders trailed by more than 20 points at one time, and Wright State's loss at Ohio. The league is obviously down this season and the fact that UIC's win was the Horizon League's only road win is a sad way to close the season.