Quick starts in each half Friday gave No. 20 Loyola Chicago the working margin it needed to cruise into the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament with a 73-49 victory over Southern Illinois in St. Louis.
The tournament's top seed, the Ramblers (22-4) received 13 points off the bench from Jacob Hutson, plus 11 each from Braden Norris and Lucas Williamson. Loyola canned 47.4 percent of its field goal attempts as it enjoyed its highest-scoring game since ringing up 81 in a Feb. 13 rout at Drake.
Anthony D'Avanzo scored a game-high 18 points for the Salukis (12-14), while Dalton Banks added 12. Ninth-seeded Southern Illinois played without its top two scorers, Marcus Domask and Lance Jones, due to foot and ankle injuries, respectively.
Even if both were healthy and ready to go, the Salukis would have had a tall task to figure out the stingiest scoring defense in Division I. The Ramblers allow an average of 55.7 points per game, and they were in form from the opening tip.
Despite the 11:08 a.m. local time start time, Loyola was ready to go. It rattled off 10 straight points to begin the game, forcing Salukis coach Bryan Mullins to burn a timeout before his team scored a point.
It took SIU 5:21 to score, with D'Avanzo breaking the seal following a jump hook in the lane. Even when it found a little traction offensively, the best it could do was pull within 21-14 when Banks put back Kyler Filewich's miss.
From there, the Ramblers took over with consistency on both ends of the floor. A 12-2 run that Cameron Krutwig capped with a free throw made it 33-16 with 3:37 left in the half, and the lead was 35-22 at the break.
To begin the second half, Loyola ripped off an 18-2 spurt, establishing a 53-24 advantage when Norris sank a turnaround jumper in the lane. The lead never dipped before 20 for the game's remainder.
In one semifinal on Saturday, the Ramblers will play fourth-seeded Indiana State, which defeated fifth-seeded Evansville 53-43 in another quarterfinal matchup later Friday.
--Field Level Media