Loyola and UIC split as Horizon League continues solid non-conference


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Loyola and UIC split non-conference games on the road as the Horizon League went 4-3 in the final major day of action before league games start up again on Dec. 30. The Ramblers went to Texas-Pan American, and like Northwestern before them, found themselves in a struggle until the very end. Eventually though Loyola pulled away for an 84-76 victory. Geoff McCammon led the team with 15 points.

The victory over the Broncs snapped a two-game losing streak for the Ramblers and helped them finish 9-2 in non-conference play on the season. That's a solid mark, but now Jim Whitesell's club has an uphill climb in conference play after starting 0-2 with home losses against Butler and Valparaiso.
UIC learned the hard way that two upsets don't necessarily equal a third on the road at Oregon State. The Flames beat the Beavers last season at the Pavilion and were coming off an upset of Illinois, but couldn't find a way to get Oregon State out of its rhythm in a 74-54 loss.
Robo Kreps scored a team-high 21 points, but defensive troubles really did the Flames in as Oregon State scored 74 points in 64 possessions. UIC finishes non-conference play with a 5-6 record, but included in there are two good wins over Rhode Island and Illinois.

The rest of the Horizon League continued to stay the course. Cleveland State took out the Big East's South Florida, 69-62, and Butler down Utah, 74-62. Those two teams have to be considered the conference favorites moving forward. Elsewhere, Green Bay got a solid road win at a surprisingly tough Wyoming squad.

The other two losses weren't spectacular. Detroit dropped a 73-65 game at Bradley and Charlotte beat Wright State 57-53. 
I believe that gives the Horizon League an overall record of 66-45 in non-conference play pending the Bulldogs' remaining results at the Diamond Head Classic and Valparaiso's game against Ball State. Just for fun, here's how Ken Pomeroy now sees the conference shaking out:
  1. Butler - 16-2
  2. Cleveland State - 14-4
  3. Valparaiso - 11-7
  4. Loyola - 10-8
  5. Detroit - 9-9
  6. Wright State - 9-9
  7. Green Bay - 7-11
  8. Milwaukee - 7-11
  9. UIC - 4-14
  10. Youngstown State - 3-15
That'll be very interesting if it's how things actually work out. Not many people would've projected Loyola into that slot even a few weeks ago. Their close losses against top competition are currently working for them. Things start shaking out for real next Thursday.

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