San Diego State came into Gentile Arena on Saturday favored by 13 points over Loyola in the Mountain West - Missouri Valley Challenge, and that seemed conservative, considering the Ramblers are now without rebounding leader Donte Ingram for 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Loyola was undersized and that could have hurt them.
But it didn’t.
Instead, Loyola pulled off a 65-59 upset. Here’s how the Ramblers did it:
Aundre Jackson’s first career start was a success
Aundre Jackson got his first career start in place of Ingram and he was fantastic, scoring 24 points in 33 minutes and missing just one shot — a three that an SDSU player got his hand on. He’s currently ranked seventh in the country in field goal percentage.
The Ramblers dominated the defensive end
Led by Loyola’s best defender, Ben Richardson, the defensive success played a key role in the win. The Ramblers forced turnovers, blocked shots, and stretched SDSU’s offense out. The Ramblers forced SDSU to either take deep threes or drive into traffic. The Aztecs were held to 40 percent shooting in the paint.
Clayton Custer bustled in the backcourt
Clayton Custer went 0-7 from the floor in the first half, but posted a crucial 10 in the second half off a pair of threes and a couple buckets in the paint. It was easy to see the change in him on the court once the shots started falling. His chemistry with Richardson in the backcourt and with his teammates on the wings has made a difference in the season so far.
The bench stepped up when Loyola needed it most
Bruno Skokna collected six defensive rebounds and Vlatko Granic scored seven points to help the Ramblers to victory. Loyola has a thin bench in the front court right now with Ingram out and Matt Chastain already sidelined with a season-ending ACL tear. Head coach Porter Moser needed players to step up and take on the load of what they contributed. That’s what happened.
So Loyola knocked off at top 50 team at home in front of a crowded Gentile Arena. The Ramblers are starting to make noise in the MVC. They played North Carolina State to the buzzer on the road and on Saturday picked up a quality resume win. If the Ramblers continue to play strong like this through conference play, could they hear their name called for a postseason tournament in March?
It’s starting to look that way.