GENTILE ARENA---There must be something magical about the Loyola-Butler matchup every year. Especially when it's at the Gentile Arena.
In front of a near sellout crowd of 4,347, the Ramblers (5-14, 0-9) were able to push Butler (12-9, 6-3) starting midway through the first half when Porter Moser switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense.
The zone kept Loyola in the game until the very end, but a couple of threes down the stretch by Butler sealed it off.
"Scoring did not come against the 1-3-1. We missed a lot of jump shots and they put us on our heels," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "I want them to shoot threes against the zone," Stevens added. Butler chucked up a total of 21 long balls, sinking only four of them.
Compared to Thursday's contest against Valparaiso, Loyola's performance today was a big improvement on all cylinders.
Ben Averkamp was fairly quiet for the second straight game, however, tallying only eight points. The offensive production came from freshman guard Joe Crisman and Walt Gibler, who each shared a team-high 14 points. The 14 for Crisman matches a season/career-high.
Crisman came to play for the second half after having a quiet first period, knocking down all three of his long-range shots to go along with his 5-of-7 shooting from the field.
"Teammates did a great job finding me in the second half," said Crisman. "Let the scoring come to me." A runner to beat the shot clock put Loyola within three, and two late threes proved to be a couple of deadly shots for Crisman and the Ramblers.
There must be something about playing in big games like these in front of large crowds that attracts the young guard. His other noteworthy performance this season came during a highly talked-about game at home with the DePaul Blue Demons.
Ronald Nored of Butler played the type of game all coaches dream of, according to Porter Moser. When discussing his game play, Porter sounded like he was his proud father or a coach trying all he could could do to recruit him over to the lake front.
"He is so in tuned to everything. His body language, toughness, awareness are superior," Moser said of Nored. The Butler guard led all scorers with 16 points and contributed with nine assists and six rebounds.
Andrew Smith could have done a whole lot more damage on offense for Butler, but the 6'11" center got into serious foul trouble too quickly. Smith finished with 12 points (2-of-3 from three-point land) and 13 rebounds.
Loyola should consider themselves lucky the big man didn't let loose for the duration of the game, because his size is unmatched on the Loyola front.
The game saw six lead changes with neither team really controlling the tempo.
Butler tried to take momentum in the first half, but Loyola's defense was too much. "They're a persistent, good team and our defense kept us in the game," said Walt Gibler.
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