Playing as a ranked regular-season team for the first time in 36 years and riding its longest winning streak in three seasons, Loyola Chicago’s main focus this weekend will be to keep Drake from supplanting it atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
The No. 22 Ramblers look for an 11th straight victory when they open a back-to-back set in Des Moines, Iowa, against the Bulldogs on Saturday.
The last time Loyola (17-3, 12-1 MVC) won at least 11 in a row, it surprisingly reached the Final Four in 2018. The Ramblers won the MVC that season, and currently sit atop the league with Drake (19-1, 10-1 in MVC) in second place. However, should Loyola drop both games in Des Moines on Saturday and Sunday, the Bulldogs would take over the conference lead.
Still, this is a confident Ramblers squad that’s won six consecutive road contests. Not to mention, is shooting 52.1 percent overall, and holding opponents to an average of 51.3 points and 38.2-percent shooting during a 10-game winning streak that dates to its 58-48 win at Indiana State on Jan. 11.
“We’re all focused about the bigger picture, which is winning,” Ramblers guard Keith Clemons told the Loyola Phoenix. “We trust and know coach (Porter Moser) is going to put us in the best situations for us to win.
“It’s just going out there and just producing.”
Loyola, which earned its last regular-season ranking in March 1985, has won six of the last seven meetings with Drake. However, that defeat came 65-62 in its most recent trip to Des Moines in January 2020.
Ramblers star forward Cameron Krutwig (15.5 points, 6.1 rebounds) has averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 boards in the last four games.
The Bulldogs sat 18-0 and ranked 25th in the country before shooting a season-low 36.5 percent during a 74-57 loss at Valparaiso on Sunday. However, Drake bounced back behind 18 points each from Tremell Murphy and Joseph Yesufu and a 47.6-percent team-shooting effort in Wednesday’s 80-59 home win over Northern Iowa.
“We knew we were going to have to play well to come away with a win,” coach Darian DeVries told Drake’s official website. “It was a critical game for us to come back and get a win, especially with Loyola coming in this weekend.
“We needed to get our heads back up.”
The Bulldogs came through Wednesday despite eight points from leading scorer ShanQuan Hemphill (14.1 points), who exited with just over eight minutes remaining in the game due to an injury. Drake announced Friday that Hemphill had surgical procedure Thursday to repair a fractured left foot and would miss four weeks.
Murphy has averaged 14.2 points over a six-game stretch and totaled 48 points in the Bulldogs’ last two contests at home.
–Field Level Media