It's almost as if Loyola and UIC never had a chance on Tuesday in their Horizon League first round games. The Ramblers and Flames both got down early and struggled to come back in losses to Detroit and Cleveland State respectively. Unfortunately the Win Probability graphs aren't available yet on Ken Pomeroy for these games, or I'd show you what a sad state of affairs it became.
Loyola vs. Detroit
For Loyola the story was about the first 15 minutes. The Ramblers were down 30-17 with 5:22 remaining in the first half and Jim Whitesell was being forced to spend timeouts all over the place to stem the tide of the Titans' momentum.
"We just got beat to the punch tonight," Whitesell said in the school's release. "In the first half, we just didn't get enough good looks to go down and after we cut it to six in the second half, they handled our press well and kind of broke us at about the eight-minute mark."
The deficit was Loyola's downfall. Forced to play at a faster paced with an extended press defense, the Ramblers ended up playing right into Detroit's up-tempo, open court style which allowed the Titans to use their superior athleticism. They got out and ran all the way to a 90-69 victory in 79 possessions. The 1.14 points per possession was well above Detroit's average during conference play this season.
Loyola's other problem was that shots just didn't seem to drop. Geoff McCammon struggled in his final game for the Ramblers, going 2-16, including 2-12 from three-point range, and scoring 11 points. Fellow senior Terrance Hill shot 6-16 and scored 12 points and Andy Polka had a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards in his final collegiate game.
It's possible that this isn't the end of Loyola's season. The Ramblers did finish 16-15 overall and could theoretically get invited to the CIT, but my guess is that this is the end of the road for Whitesell's crew this season.
UIC vs. Cleveland State
The shots didn't drop from UIC's Robo Kreps in Cleveland either and coupled with first half foul trouble for Paul Carter it was enough to extinguish the Flames' season. When he was on the court, Carter actually played a strong game. He scored 18 points in 27 minutes, including 13-16 from the free throw line. But Kreps' 3-13 from the field contributed to the Flames scoring 61 points in 68 possessions in the loss.
"I just told my team that it's amazing how we play our best basketball after digging ourselves into holes," said UIC head coach Howard Moore in the school's release. "For some reason, we've had a tendency this season to play harder when we've been in that situation, and I can't understand why we do that. I thought we got off to a great start both offensively and defensively, but then Paul Carter and Paris Carter got into foul trouble, and it really hurt our defense.
"You've got to give Cleveland State credit; they took advantage of that. It was just frustrating that we didn't bring the energy to match their big run in the first half."
Due to foul trouble to Paris Carter and Darrin Williams senior K.C. Robbins played 20 minutes in his final collegiate game. He scored 8 points on 4-8 shooting, grabbed 7 boards and also blocked 2 shots.
Live Blog Notes
As a final aside. I'd like to thank everyone from all the Horizon League schools that came out to participate in yesterday's live-blog. It was a great experience. That we had 610 comments all specifically focused on the Horizon League over the 3 hours the chat was going shows the passion that the fans of this league have. A special thanks goes out to Jimmy at PantherU
, Chris at Fanning the Flames
and Damon at Victory Firelight
for providing such useful commentary throughout the night. Most of my esteemed hosts will be in U.S. Cellular Arena on Friday night, but for those not going, I will be running the live-blog again for both the Second Round and Semifinals.