Milwaukee, TX – It’s rare when two mid-major schools hook up for a mid-December game with both schools sporting a victory over a high major on the high major’s home court. But that was the case when Loyola of Chicago made the 90-mile trek north to take on Milwaukee in a non-conference match-up between the 10-1 Ramblers and the 6-5 hometown Panthers. Taking a page from the normally sharp-shooting Ramblers’ playbook, the Panthers made nearly half of their shots and 40 percent of their three-point shots to send the Ramblers home with a 73-56 defeat in a game that got away from Loyola early and was never within single digits in the second half.
“Going up against a Loyola team well coached by Porter Moser, we knew we’d have to be prepared for a physical battle and also a game where we had to score, too,” said Milwaukee Coach Pat Baldwin. “From beginning to end, I thought our intensity level, the togetherness we played with and the way we competed was at an all-time high.”
Loyola entered the game averaging just under 78 points per game while shooting a gaudy 53 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the three-point arc. Alternating between man-to-man and zone defenses, Milwaukee limited Loyola to 39 percent overall shooting and 21 percent marksmanship from distance. “I was particularly happy with the way we guarded the three-point line,” said Baldwin.
Junior Brock Stull, Milwaukee’s leading scorer at 12 ppg entering the contest, erupted for 23 points in leading the Panthers’ offense. A 6-4 wing with three-level scoring ability, Stull heated up early making four of six first-half triples to help stake Milwaukee to a 42-25 halftime lead. “They (Loyola) shoot the ball extremely well and to be able to get out to a lead like that gave us a cushion to do some things,” said Baldwin.
Forced to the bench with a right knee injury for the last two games, both Milwaukee losses by a 20-point average, Stull’s return allowed Baldwin to start the same five players he started when the Panthers visited Iowa State of the Big Twelve Conference on November 13 and walked off the court with a 74-56 victory. “The knee felt great,” said Stull. “I think it was more of a confidence thing. Yesterday (Friday) was the first day I went hard on it in practice. It felt great to be back on the court.”
Stull does much of his work from distance at the wing areas, but he also connected on two three-point shots from above the top of the key. One straight-on look came off a one-dribble move to his left. He was fouled making that shot and his free throw completed the four-point play. The other served as a punctuation mark to the Panthers first 20 minutes of play when he drained a straight-on shot from distance off a kick-out pass with three seconds left in the half. “We knew they would double on our bigs and we’d have wide open shots and it was just a matter of knocking them down,” said Stull.
“Brock gives us size at the wing and allows us to play different ways,” said Baldwin. “He gives us versatility. He allows us to play him at the power forward when teams go small against us like tonight. His value to us is immense.”
Milwaukee also got strong production from senior Brett Prahl and sophomore Bryce Nze, its two starting bigs. Both score mostly in the paint, and each finished with ten points combining to make nine of fourteen shots. If there were any doubt this was Milwaukee’s day, it was erased when Prahl found himself unguarded behind the arc with 8:30 left in the game and splashed a triple to widen the Milwaukee lead to 19 points. It was Prahl’s second made three-point shot on the season.
Loyola traveled to Florida on December 6 and defeated the then fourth-ranked Gators of the Southeastern Conference 65-59. Its only loss coming into the Milwaukee game was to a Boise State team from a strong Mountain West Conference. The Ramblers 10-1 start was their best in 52 years.
Senior Donte Ingram, an athletic 6-6 wing with broad shoulders and bounce to his game, led Loyola with 13 points. Entering the game shooting the three-ball at a 41 percent clip, the left-handed shooting Ingram misfired on all five of his three-point attempts after connecting on his first to finish the game with a one-for-six line from distance.
In addition to frustrating Ingram from distance, Milwaukee held Loyola leading scorer Aundre Jackson to three points, 11 below his average. Selected as a first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference member by nearly all the preseason publications, Jackson brought a team-leading 14 ppg scoring average into the game. The Missouri Valley Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2016-17, Jackson made 67 percent of his shots last season to finish fourth among all Division One players in field goal percentage. He entered the Milwaukee game making 69 percent of his shots, but connected on only one of nine attempts against the Panthers.
Baldwin spent seven years as an assistant coach at Loyola and said the win over his former school in his first game against it as a head coach held no special significance. “My time at Loyola was tremendous,” he said. “This was not a personal deal at all as much as it was about our team–Milwaukee.”
With a December 22 home game against Western Michigan Milwaukee’s final tune-up before the start of the Horizon League schedule, Baldwin said he was getting a better handle of how he wanted his team to play. “We’re trying to be an inside-outside team that gets our bigs early touches to get them engaged,” he said. “After that, we’re looking for a lot of ball movement.”
The loss marked the conclusion of Loyola’s non-conference schedule. The Ramblers begin conference play by squaring off against Missouri State in Springfield, Missouri on December 22.
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