Loyola has been in this position time and again this year, falling late to an evenly matched team and now stretches their Horizon League record to a dismal 0-7.
UIC is no team to be heavily feared, but the Flames were able to pull out a victory and move to 6-11 overall with a 58-51 win over Porter Moser and his struggling Ramblers (5-12).
"I've seen this script before, their guards hit huge shots while our guard play was nonexistent," said Moser. "Barnes and Talton (UIC guards) hit big shots down the stretch."
That they did, combining for 34 points and eight three-pointers. Barnes was a stellar 6-for-9 from long range scoring a team high 18 points, all off threes.
Walt Gibler once again showed his fortitude and will to drive his team into every single game, leading Loyola in the second half scoring 17 of his 21 total points in the second period and finishing eight for nine from the field.
Additionally, he hit 5-of-7 free throws finishing on a couple of conventional three-point plays. One of those "and one" plays came at the 8:36 mark giving the Ramblers their second lead of the game, 45-44.
The player of the game for the Flames answered, though, with a couple of three balls reclaiming the UIC lead and pushing his team ahead by five.
Aside from Gibler, the Ramblers did not have any other offensive help. What may have cost Loyola the victory was quiet play from Ben Averkamp (4-15 from the field and only 10 points).
UIC's motive coming into the game was to shut down the second team All-Horizon Leaguer. Head coach Howard Moore stated, "Defensively, we really wanted to keep Gibler and Averkamp quiet."
Limiting one of the two really dampers offensive production on the Loyola front and was the X-factor for the Flames' victory.
Coach Moore did speak highly of Porter Moser's squad.
"Very valiant effort against a hungry team. Porter Moser has the team going in the right direction."
I hope Howard Moore's words prove to be true and somehow Loyola finds a win in the Horizon League and ends its long overdue losing streak.
A drastic turn around is unlikely this year, but Porter is the right man for the long haul and has what it takes to turn the team back to winning ways in a couple of years or so.
"What coach is trying to instill in us, we are trying to grasp it and gel more and more," said game scoring leader (21 points) Walt Gibler.
A senior, Gibler will not be around to see Moser's effect on the program in the long run, but he still feels strongly for his teammates and his school's athletic program.
Up next for Loyola is Valparaiso at home on Jan. 19.
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