The Sycamores improved to 22-9 as the Ramblers fell to 10-22. Indiana State improved to 6-2 under fourth-year head coach Greg Lansing at the MVC Tournament and have won at least one game in the league's annual postseason event for four consecutive seasons.
The pathway to victory was paved by senior Jake Odum who scored 18 points as he went 7-of-13 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers with four rebounds. Justin Gant scored 14 points and dished out four assists. Also in double figures scoring was Devonte Brown with 12 points and he, along with Jake Kitchell, paced the team with six rebounds.
The Sycamores hit 52.9 percent (27-of-51) of their shots from the field and owned the rebounding battle by a 35-27 margin. Indiana State held a 36-14 edge in the paint and scored 11 points off 12 Loyola turnovers.
Justin Gant scored first for Indiana State out of the gate with a 3-pointer for a quick 3-0 Sycamore lead. A free throw and consecutive lay-ups by Devonte Brown and Jake Odum stretched the Sycamore cushion out to 11-4 just over five minutes into the game and forced Loyola to call their first timeout.
The Ramblers scored seven points in a row to knot the game at 11 before Odum hit a jumper to push the Sycamores back ahead and an Arop lay-up at the 8:56 mark pushed Indiana State up 15-11.
Leading 17-16, Odum began to take over by scoring six points in a row to stretch the lead out to 23-16 with 4:51 on the clock. With 1:14 left in the first half, Odum drained a 3-pointer for a 26-20 lead and the defense held the Ramblers to just two more points the rest of the way and the Sycamores led at the half 26-22. Odum paced the Sycamores with 13 points at the break.
Indiana State started out the second half strong with six points in a row to take a 32-22 advantage and forced Loyola to call the first timeout of the second half less than two minutes in.
Odum continued his strong play with an open 3-pointer as the clock ticked under the 15 minute mark to expand the lead to 35-26. After a conventional 3-point play got the lead down to single digits Lucas Eitel stepped up with an open trifecta at the top of the key to restore order and a 39-29 cushion at the 13:58 mark.
As the clock ticked down to near the 12-minute mark, Jeff White connected on a 3-pointer for Loyola, but Gant countered with a trifecta of his own for a 44-34 lead. Eitel hit a long jumper and then got a steal which led to a pair of free throws and the Sycamores owned a 49-36 advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining.
At the 7:20 mark, the Sycamores owned a 13-point lead until Gant completed a conventional 3-point play to stretch the cushion out to 54-38.
Dawon Cummings served up the exclamation point in the contest with a big throw down after he drove down the lane and the Sycamores owned a 61-41 advantage.
Jeff White paced the Ramblers with 13 points.
The Sycamores will return to action tomorrow, Saturday, March 8 inside Scottrade Center against the winner of tonight's matchup between No. 3 Northern Iowa and No. 6 Southern Illinois. Tip-off is set for 5:08 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on MVC TV as well as ESPN3.
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