Geoff McCammon (right) sure likes playing against UIC. The Loyola shooting guard lit up the Flames with 26 points while leading the Ramblers to a 80-63 victory and a season sweep of their cross-town rivals.
"It feels great because the years before this [season] I had never beaten them," McCammon. "I lost to them five times so it just feels great. You always want to beat your cross-town rival."
McCammon was one of four Ramblers in double-figures as Terrance Hill scored 15, Walt Gibler added 11 and Courtney Stanley pitched in 10 and 8 assists.
The Ramblers used a team effort and intensity on the boards to turn a 2-point halftime advantage into a rout. Loyola (14-11, 5-10) was pounded on the boards in the first half, but the Ramblers came back in the second to out-rebound the Flames 26-13. That included 10 offensive rebounds. Overall Loyola's 14 offensive rebounds led to 18 second chance points.
"They really started whooping our butts," said UIC (6-19, 2-13) head coach Jimmy Collins about the Ramblers' work on the boards during the second half.
UIC was led by 13 points from both Zavion Neely and K.C. Robbins. Chris Buchanan finished with 10 points. Neely had 10 points in the first half as he managed to get free, but he went 1-6 in the second half as the Ramblers ratcheted up the defense.
Robbins was the bright spot in the game for the Flames. He had been very sick the day before, but he told Collins he was ready to play and he delivered a fine night. Loyola chose to guard him with one guy in the post most of the night and Robbins made them pay for that decision. He went 5-8, grabbed 8 boards and blocked 3 shots. He was a solid force in the paint during his 26 minutes of play.
"If anything we did not get him the ball enough," Collins said about his junior center. "He was five for eight and he should've had at least 13, 14 shots because there were a lot of times he was open and we just didn't get him the ball."
The Ramblers' post game was also effective. While Gibler scored 8 of his 11 points from the foul line, Ben Averkamp and Andy Polka each scored 7 points on a variety of mid-range and low-post moves. Averkamp continued to show signs of becoming a solid player with 7 boards, 2 assists, 4 blocks and a steal in 22 minutes of play. While Polka struggled at the free-throw line shooting 3-7, he grabbed 4 offensive boards and 11 overall.
Another player that gave Loyola some solid minutes was Ryan Sterling. Sterling came in during the first half and seemed to calm things down a bit. He scored 4 points in 12 minutes of action in relief of Stanley. His rim rattling three really with 15:21 remaining in the second half pushed Loyola's advantage to 5 and seemed to help him settle into the game.
"I thought he really helped us tonight," said Loyola head coach Jim Whitesell about his junior guard. "He hit a really big three, but more importantly he came in and got us in our offense. He's not going to make breakdown plays like [Hill] and [Stanley], but what he'll do it hopefully get the ball reversed and throw the ball inside and hit a spot up shot. And that three was a big shot for him confidence wise."
Loyola's next test is at Valparaiso on Wednesday. The Flames will head to Butler on that same night.