On a day meant to celebrate seniors of Loyola women’s basketball, a freshman stole the show Sunday afternoon as forward Jasmine Franklin and the Missouri State Lady Bears defeated the Ramblers 85-58.
The Lady Bears came out of the gates on fire as they drained their first 6 shots from the floor. Franklin (18 points, 7 rebounds) had the soft touch going inside and in the mid-range for Missouri State, starting out 3 of 3 from the field. She was a defensive presence early and had an emphatic block on a lay-up attempt from Loyola guard Jazmine Covington.
The Ramblers stood their ground in the early going, almost matching the Lady Bears high-octane attack basket for basket. After a tough lay-up converted by senior guard Citiana Negatu, the Ramblers were able to cut the lead to one possession, 10-12, with 4:59 remaining in the first quarter.
Following the media timeout, the Ramblers came out with a spark. After a Missouri State score, Loyola guard Tiara Wallace forced a turnover on a Lady Bear fast break opportunity and forward Abby O’Connor (16 points, 5 rebounds) banged home a triple on the other end to cut the deficit to 1. The Ramblers would finish the quarter on a 7-2 run, leading the Lady Bears 20-16.
The Lady Bears did not relinquish the lead for long, coming out of the quarter break on a 7-0 run to grab a 23-20 lead. O’Connor answered with a 3-point play with 7 minutes to play to knot up the scoring once again, and followed a Lady Bear basket with another triple to give the Ramblers a brief 26-25 lead.
With the score 28-27 in favor of Loyola after a timeout with 4:13 to play, the Lady Bears switched up their defensive scheme. A half-court trap out of a 2-3 zone gave the Ramblers fits, forcing them to cough up the ball on several possessions. The Lady Bears seized their opportunity and closed the half on an 8-3 run, leading the Ramblers 35-31 at the break.
“I thought we played a really good first half,” Loyola Coach Kate Achter said. “I thought our kids competed. And then the little things that we needed to stay in the game, we couldn’t quite execute.”
The second half presented a change in tempo, as both teams started out slow. But after a score by the Ramblers, the Lady Bears went on a 12-2 run on a flurry of scoring by Franklin, guard Brice Callip (8 points) and forward Abby Hipp (9 points, 7 rebounds) to give them a comfortable 47-35 lead with 5:48 left in the third.
After the media timeout, Loyola started to chip away at the lead. Guard Ellie Rice (11 points, 4 assists) contributed a fast 5 points and helped engineer a 7-2 run for the Ramblers. Although the Lady Bears 2-3 zone forced the Ramblers to be smarter with the ball, Loyola seemed to make adjustments and only trailed 42-49 with 3:30 left in the quarter.
The Lady Bears still managed to keep the Ramblers at arms-length the rest of the way. After guard Elle Ruffridge ripped off 8 straight points, Missouri State kicked their offense back into high gear. Closing the third on a 12-5 run, the Lady Bears led 61-47 heading into the final period.
The Lady Bears continued to put the pedal down to start the fourth. The Lady Bears finished with 24 points the rest of the way to put the game away. Turnovers by Loyola, 21 for the game, and a dominance by Missouri State on the glass (48 rebounds, 21 of which were offensive) kept the Ramblers from establishing any types of runs down the stretch.
“They ran it [the zone] against us last time,” Rice said. “We were definitely expecting it. They come out with a lot of energy, so we just need to do a better job of taking care of the ball going forward.”
Additionally, Missouri State’s depth shined out in this game. The Lady Bears scored 40 points off the bench, playing 13 total players — more than the Ramblers rostered for the entire season.
“Depth is certainly an issue,” Achter said. “It’s really hard right now because we’re another guard down. Offensively that hurts us…Our freshmen and sophomores have played enough minutes to be considered sophomores and juniors.”
The Ramblers have no more remaining home games, finishing with a record of 8-7 at Gentile Arena. The Ramblers will play out the rest of the season on the road with games at Illinois State, at Bradley, and at Valparaiso.
Today’s loss brings them to 6-9 in conference play and dropped them to seventh in the Valley. They will have 3 more opportunities to turn it around and try and secure a top six seed and first round bye in the Valley’s conference tournament.