Following a dominant performance at Drake to open the weekend, surging Loyola Chicago won't have to wait long for the chance to increase its lead over the second-place team in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
The visiting No. 22 Ramblers look for a 12th straight win and regular-season series sweep of the second-place Bulldogs on Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Loyola (18-3, 13-1 in MVC) extended its longest winning streak in three seasons Saturday with a resounding 81-54 rout of Drake (19-2, 10-2 in MVC), which is trying to catch the front-running Ramblers in the Valley.
Aher Uguak scored 20 points and star Cameron Krutwig (15.3 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game) added 10 points with 10 rebounds and four assists. The Ramblers shot 63.8 percent, including 19 of 27 while outscoring the Bulldogs 50-20 in the second half, to take the opener of this key back-to-back with possible NCAA Tournament implications on the line.
"Credit to Loyola, I thought they played well on both ends of the floor and were better than us (Saturday)," Drake coach Darian DeVries told the school's official website.
DeVries also stressed the importance of Sunday's game.
"(Sunday) will be a big game for us," he told the Des Moines Register. "There's no way to sugarcoat it. For us to control our own destiny, we need to be able to win (Sunday)."
Over the past five games, Loyola is shooting 57.8 percent while holding its opponents to an average of 52.6 points. Uguak, meanwhile, has totaled 34 points and 16 rebounds over the past two games for the Ramblers, who have won seven of their past eight against Drake.
"I thought that was a high-level, physical game," Loyola coach Porter Moser, whose team trailed by three points at the half on Saturday, told the school's official website. "At halftime, we said we had to stay with it and keep doing what we were doing. Just guard at a high level."
Drake, which has lost two of three following a 17-0 start, shot 48.3 percent in the first half while holding the advantage at the break on Saturday. However, foul trouble and the absence of leading scorer ShanQuan Hemphill (14.1 ppg), out at least four weeks with a broken foot, seemed to catch up to the hosts in the second half. The Bulldogs went 7 of 23 from the field while Loyola was 19 of 27 over the final 20 minutes.
Those 54 points were the fewest of the season for Drake, which also lost at home for the first time in 2020-21. The Bulldogs have also dropped 10 straight against ranked opponents.
The good news for the Bulldogs is that the quick turnaround won't allow them to stew in the disappointment of Saturday's effort. Whether they have the mettle to bounce back, and remain in the hunt for an MVC regular-season title, will be seen.
Darnell Brodie had a team-high 12 points on Saturday for Drake. It was the 6-foot-10 forward's first time in double figures over the past five games.
Krutwig, who has double-doubles in his past two games, has averaged 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists in seven games against Drake.
--Field Level Media