Loyola impresses, showing a glimpse of what could be, in win over Evansville

Loyola's Katie Salmon (13) look to shoot in an 82-63 win vs. Evansville on Jan. 28, 2018 at Gentile Arena (Patrick Engel/MEDILL).

By Patrick Engel
Medill Reports

Kate Achter is known for her quick arrivals to postgame press conferences. On occasion, she’ll even beat a reporter to the media room.

Sunday, though, she arrived in the Norville Center adjacent to Gentile Arena a couple minutes later than usual. Still digesting her team’s most complete performance of the season, she shoehorned in a moment to glance over the stat sheet before starting her presser in the lobby near Loyola’s locker room.

Unsurprisingly, Achter liked the numbers from Loyola’s 82-63 dusting of Evansville.

“They were hungry today,” Achter said.

But she couldn’t help mentioning the big picture of the win.

“We’re capable of that,” Achter said. “And that’s been the most frustrating part of the season. We know we’re capable of that, it’s just we haven’t always put it together.”

That’s a big picture that might seem odd to bring up after such a win. After all, the halftime score was 43-21. Those 43 were more points than Loyola had scored in five games this year. Loyola showing what it could be, though, can’t happen without a thought of what it largely hasn’t been. At least not in a four-win season. Avoiding complacency, after all, is a coach’s job.

Sunday, Loyola (4-16, 2-7 Missouri Valley) put it together. Sure, this was a matchup of the bottom two teams in the MVC standings, and Evansville (3-17, 0-9 MVC) was without its leading scorer. Loyola’s offense, however, was good enough that it may not have mattered.

The Ramblers set several season-highs: 82 points, 33 field goals, 50 percent shooting and five players with at least 10 points. The number that stood out to head coach Kate Achter, though, was 22 assists.

“That might even be my tenure-high in assists,” Achter said. “And that’s awesome. That’s team offense.”

It sure was Loyola’s highest number of helpers in Achter’s two seasons as head coach and obliterated this year’s prior high of 15 set earlier this month in a loss at Valparaiso.

Loyola outscored Evansville 24-4 in the second quarter, in which the Ramblers made five 3-pointers. Evansville, meanwhile, went 1-for-13 from the field and didn’t make a field goal in the final 7:55.

Senior guard Jessica Cerda made a team-high four 3s, three of them in that impressive second quarter. In a span of 2:35, she hit two 3s and a layup as part of a 14-2 run.

“We kind of joke with her that when she steps inside the 3-point line, alarms go off because she’s not supposed to be there,” Achter said. “But her attacking the basket and being aggressive for us jump-started us offensively.”

Cerda led all scorers with 16 points, going 4-for-10 from 3-point range and 2-for-3 on two-pointers. Freshman guard Ellie Rice had 12 points, her third straight game in double figures. Freshman forward Alexis Meyer had a career-high 10 points in 18 minutes off the bench, two days after playing five minutes in a loss to Indiana State. Guards Tiara Wallace and Kailyn Strawbridge tied career highs with seven assists each.

“We drew two, moved the ball with extra passes and found better shots,” Achter said. “I challenged them to find extra shots.”

Sophomore guard Lauren Segars, coming off the bench again, played 10 minutes. Achter played her for one minute in the Indiana State game, sending a message that she wanted more out of her. Sunday, she provided it, even though she scored only two points.

“We challenge someone as a guard to have five rebounds off the bench,” Achter said. “She had five boards in 10 minutes. That’s an unbelievable stat.”

Loyola will certainly take plenty more of them.

Photo at top: Loyola’s Katie Salmon (13) looks to shoot in an 82-63 win against Evansville on Jan. 28 at Gentile Arena (Patrick Engel/MEDILL).