CHICAGO (WFIE) - Despite falling into an early hole, the University of Evansville men’s basketball team rallied back twice, but Loyola’s offense was too much to handle, shooting 70.5% on their way to a 78-44 win over the Purple Aces on Saturday inside Gentile Arena.
Sam Cunliffe recorded a team-high 11 points with K.J. Riley going 3-for-4 from the field on his way to seven points. Three players recorded six tallies for Evansville (9-8, 0-4 MVC).
“We were right there in the middle of the first half. When things are not going quite right, it is tough for our guys to get it going,” UE interim coach Bennie Seltzer said. “When a team shoots 75% in the first half and 70% for the game, it will be hard to overcome. We are going to work on some things and change some stuff on defense moving forward.”
In the first half, Loyola (11-6, 3-1 MVC) shot an unbelievable 75%, hitting 18 of their 24 shots to lead by a 43-24 margin at the break. After the Ramblers jumped out to a 7-2 lead, the Aces quickly fought back within one with a pair of John Hall free throws making it a 7-6 game. After Loyola pushed its lead back out to five points at 14-9, Noah Frederking changed the complexion of the game.
The junior from Okawville, Ill. drained back-to-back triples to give Evansville its first lead at 15-14. Loyola responded with an 11-0 run over a span of six minutes to open up their first double digit lead at 25-15. UE missed four shots in a row while turning it over four times. Cunliffe got the Aces back on track with a field goal at the 6:59 mark.
Evansville fought back within eight points on another Cunliffe field goal with 4:02 remaining, making it a 30-22 deficit, but the Ramblers finished the half on fire, going on a 13-0 run to take the 43-24 halftime lead. Cunliffe had nine points in the half. Points in the paint were a huge difference as Evansville was outscored by a 30-4 margin in the opening 20 minutes.
Over the opening five minutes of the second half, the Aces were able to cut into the deficit, going on a 9-4 run to get within 14. K.J. Riley had seven of the first nine UE points. Included in that was his first 3-pointer since Dec. 4 against Western Illinois.
Loyola overcame the stretch and was able to push the lead back over 20 points. An 18-4 run saw the Ramblers take a 65-37 lead with 8:27 left in the game. Two minutes later, the lead would reach 69-39 on a pair of free throws. From there, the Ramblers held strong and finished the day with a 78-44 win.
Pacing Loyola was Marquise Kennedy, who totaled 20 points while connecting on eight of his nine attempts. Aher Uguak recorded 12 points while Cameron Krutwig scored 11. Evansville finished the game shooting 39.1%.
UE remains on the road this week, traveling to Indiana State on Wednesday evening for a 6 p.m. CT game at the Hulman Center.