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Valparaiso (11-6, 4-0 MVC) at Loyola-Chicago (10-7, 3-1 MVC) – 8:00 PM EST (ESPN+)
Tonight’s UTR Game of the Day takes place in Gentile Arena in Chicago between the top two teams in the Missouri Valley standings; the Loyola Ramblers play host to the Valparaiso Crusaders. Loyola doesn’t have anywhere close to the same resume they did at this time last year, but nonetheless have quietly crept back close to the top of the league after a disappointing loss at Evansville last week. They do have wins against Indiana State and Illinois State at home under their belts, but after tonight’s contest they will be entering a stretch of play where five of their next eight games will be on the road. There are a couple of familiar players leading the way for Loyola this season – Marques Townes averages 14.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG for the Ramblers; Clayton Custer averages 13.9 PPG and 2.9 APG as well.
Valparaiso, much like Loyola, stumbled to Ball State in nonconference play – their best win prior to conference play was a win at UNLV. They have looked much better winning their first four Valley contests with wins at home against Illinois State and Bradley and wins at Missouri State and Southern Illinois. The Illinois State win came courtesy of this shot from half-court at the buzzer:
Derrik Smits leads the Crusaders with 12.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG right now. Ryan Fazekas averages 12.7 PPG as well, but he is expected to miss tonight’s game due to injury (he also missed their game at Southern Illinois).