Today was a very competitive day for Chicagoland college basketball with two major televised games on the schedule this afternoon. One game was nationally televised, the other was regionally televised.
First up was the nationally televised game between DePaul and Rutgers in a Big East Conference match up in Rosemont. The Demons were looking to end a nine game losing streak while Rutgers was looking to climb out of the gutter in the standings.
The first half was back and forth for both teams. The Blue Demons and the Scarlett Knights were both scoring at will and would not be denied. The game was tied at 32 at halftime.
In the second half DePaul put the pressure on Rutgers as Worrel Clahar, Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young, and Donnavan Kirk all scored in double figures for the Demons.
They would need those performances as they only got nine points off of their bench. A key injury to Rutgers guard Eli Carter took the pressure off of Oliver Purnell’s team halfway through the second half.
DePaul led by as much as 12 late in the second half, but it looked like they were about to blow another lead. Rutgers guard Myles Mack scored 14 of his 28 total points late in the half to tie it at 62 with two minutes left.
The Blue Demons would rally thanks to big shots by Worrel Clahar and Cleveland Melvin and finish the game on a 13-7 run to take home a 75-69 victory and pick up their second conference win of the season.
DePaul is now 11-14 overall and 2-10 in the Big East for a tie for ninth place in the standings with Seton Hall. The Demons will get a couple days to enjoy their victory before hitting the road to take on the mighty Georgetown Hoyas on Wednesday night.
As for the regionally televised contest, Loyola and UIC battled it out at the Gentile Center in Rogers Park. The Flames already had a leg up on the Ramblers in the season series after a two-point victory back on January 16th.
But today the action shifted away from the UIC Pavilion and Howard Moore’s group entered hostile territory. It looked like it was going to be a defensive battle to the very end.
Especially when the first three minutes of the game were scoreless and only eight total points were scored in the first five minutes. It appeared that without Ben Averkamp and Cully Payne in the lineup, Porter Moser’s squad was going to have a hard time contending with UIC’s size advantage.
The Ramblers would counter the Flame’s size with their speed and quickness. Loyola’s defense also did a solid job as they held Illinois-Chicago guard Gary Talton to just 10 points. They also managed to slow down Flames center Josh Crittle.
Crittle only had 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 blocks before fouling out in the second half. Loyola kept hitting one shot after another and had built up a 14-point lead at one point.
The Flames did try to battle back late in the game with runs of 9-2 and 8-3. But UIC’s foul trouble would come back to haunt them in the final minutes as Loyola would go 6-8 from the free throw line to stay ahead for good.
Loyola would defend their home court successfully and tie the season series at one game each with a 69-60 victory. Christian Thomas would come up big filling in for Ben Averkamp as he led all scorers with 23 points.
Jordan Hicks would contribute 18 and Devon Turk scored 10 in place of Cully Payne. The Flames are now 15-11 overall with a 6-7 Horizon League record.
They are now fifth place in the conference and this loss puts them back on the postseason bubble. As for Loyola, they are now 14-12 overall with a 4-9 Horizon League record. They are only a game and-a-half ahead of last place Wisconsin-Milwaukee as they fight to salvage their season.
The Flames can rebound with a victory over last place UW-Milwaukee on Wednesday night. As for Loyola, they have now broken their four-game losing streak and they improve to 5-1 against Chicago area teams.
But it doesn’t get any easier for them as they have to go to Valparaiso on Tuesday. The first place Crusaders have already defeated the Ramblers once this season.
The season is not over yet, stay tuned…… You can follow on Twitter @GabeSalgado82 #Q101Sports for constant updates