The state of Illinois has produced only one college basketball national championship, and it wasn’t accomplished by the Illinois Fighting Illini; although they were just a couple 3-pt FGs away in ’05. Depaul made the Final 4 in ’80s glory years under Ray Meyer, but no further. SIU has won a lot of games in March lately, but they haven’t cut down the nets either.
I doubt any of you guessed UIC or Northwestern. It’s actually Loyola, in 1963. The Ramblers also went to the sweet sixteen in 1985, but like all the other college basketball teams in the city of Chicago; they’ve done very little in recent years.
However they gave traditional Big Ten power Illinois all they could handle for about 30/40 minutes, before falling by 18, 67-49 in the season opener for both teams.
The Illini lead the all-time series with Loyola 12-3, most recently meeting in 2001. Illinois wasn’t just christening the 2011-12 season; they were breaking in a new basketball court. The new design is kind of neo-futuristic, but also has the state outline in the center. Great to see that implemented- I think all premier universities of their respective state should have the logo in the middle.
And all this change takes place within a proverbial “rebuilding year.” Three starters, and most of their scoring and rebounding need to be replaced with a young, deep team. The Illini have a lot of inexperienced bodies who can play, but not much veteran star power.
It was weird to look at the Illini “starting lineup” sheet and see an “OR” at EVERY position tonight. And that’s how it will be- lots of lineup shuffling and minutes juggling by Bruce Weber.
“When it came to gut check time they made us a push at us, but Brandon and Meyers and Tracy (Abrams) made some plays,” Weber said after the game.
The Illini didn’t look too hot on the perimeter, shooting just 29% for the game. But they defended really well, and showed a lot of effort on the defensive end.
Meyers Leonard led Illinois with 15 points on 7-10 shooting, including some MONSTER dunks that got the Assemble Hall crowd going. He also screamed a couple times after throwing down for good measure; adding showmanship to his display of athletic ability. On the other end, Leonard added six blocks, many of Brandon Paul had 14 points, Tyler Griffey had 10. No one else was in double figures for Illinois.
Loyola was led by their pre-med major front line of Ben Averkamp and Walt Gibler. Gibler was the high man for the game with 19; Averkamp was the Ramblers’ second leading scorer with 9- although his shooting yielded an ugly 4-17 in the box score. Both players figure to lead Loyola this season.
“For 30 minutes we were making it a game, but we just ran out of gas,” Loyola Coach Porter Moser said talking about how his lack of depth eventually did him in.
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.