CHICAGO – Marquise Kennedy scored 16 points, and No. 21 Loyola Chicago hung on to beat Southern Illinois 60-52 on Friday night.
The Ramblers (20-4, 15-2 Missouri Valley Conference) steadied themselves in the closing minutes after letting a 16-point lead shrink to four and came out on top for the 13th time in 14 games. They also reached 20 wins for the fourth straight year, a streak that started when the 2017-18 team went 32-6 and made the Final Four.
“I love the consistency of it,” coach Porter Moser said. “Our guys are hungry.”
Braden Norris scored 13 and made three 3-pointers. Cameron Krutwig added 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks, though he sat out the final 7 minutes, 56 seconds because of cramps.
The Ramblers extended the nation’s fifth-longest active home win streak to 21 games. They also tied the program record for conference victories.
Steven Verplancken led Southern Illinois (11-12, 5-12) with 17 points. Lance Jones scored 14 points while making 4 of 8 3-pointers, but the Salukis committed 18 turnovers against the nation’s stingiest scoring defense. And they lost their 14th in a row against ranked opponents.
“Give credit to Loyola,” said coach Bryan Mullins, a Ramblers assistant from 2013-19 before taking the Southern Illinois job. “They made more plays than us, especially those last four minutes. They were able to make some big baskets and get some stops. We’ve got to execute better at the end of the game.”
Loyola was rolling along with a 41-25 lead early in the second half, only to see things tighten down the stretch.
Verplancken cut it to 45-41 with 5:19 remaining when he made a 3. But the Ramblers’ Norris bumped it to 50-41 when he made one of his own from beyond the arc.
Kennedy hit two free throws for Loyola with 1:15 remaining to make it 52-44 and stole the ball from Jones, leading to a layup for Jacob Hutson, bumping the lead to 10 with 44 seconds to play.
Loyola had eight steals in the first half and held Southern Illinois scoreless for nine minutes while building a 29-20 lead.
The Ramblers trailed 14-5 about five minutes into the game after Jones – a sophomore from nearby Evanston, Illinois – made his first four 3-pointers. But things turned around in a big way after that.
The Salukis missed their next 10 shots as Loyola scored 12 straight in a 17-2 run.
Kennedy came off the bench to score the first eight points in that run. Layups by Krutwig and Keith Clemons put the Ramblers on top by three before Jones made one of his own to end SIU’s drought. Clemons then hit a 3-pointer and Lucas Williamson scored on a fast-break layup to stretch the lead to 22-16 with about five minutes left in the half.
“They came out ready to play,” Kennedy said. “Our first two, three minutes weren’t good. I just knew I could come off the bench and provide a spark.”
Southern Illinois: They have not beaten a Top 25 team since a win at home over then-No. 22 Wichita State on Feb. 5, 2013. The only time they knocked off one on the road was when they beat No. 13 Butler on Feb. 17, 2007.
Loyola: The Ramblers remain tied with Drake for the conference lead heading into Saturday’s finale. Loyola got the win despite making just 5 of 27 3-pointers.
The teams meet again Saturday to close out the regular season, with the conference tournament in St. Louis starting on Thursday.