Custer paces Loyola past Norfolk State, 75-62

Clayton Custer scored a game-high 20 points to lead Loyola Chicago to a 75-62 non-conference win over Norfolk State on Wednesday night at Gentile Arena.

The Ramblers did not lead by double digits in the second half until a late 12-0 run finally put the Spartans away for good. Loyola led by as much as 15 late in the first half, but NSU cut the deficit to eight at the break and to as few as one on five different occasions in the second period.

The Spartans, though, could not get over the hump in the end to fall to 2-6 on the year. Senior Jonathan Wade posted a team-high 19 points, including 15 in the second half, to pace the Spartan offense. He shot 8-of-17 overall from the floor and helped the Spartans connect on 26-of-55 overall (47.3 percent).

In fact, Loyola shot slightly worse at 46.3 percent (25-of-54), marking the first time in 23 games the Spartans lost despite hitting better from the field than the opposition.

Custer scored 20 points on just 6-of-8 shooting, thanks in part to a 4-of-5 effort from beyond the arc. In addition, Aundre Jackson came off the bench to add 17 points on 6-of-13 from the floor.

Loyola did take advantage of the discrepancy in fouls, making 18-of-23 from the free throw line compared to a 3-of-6 tally for the Spartans. NSU had 19 fouls to just eight for the Ramblers, and Loyola committed just three turnovers to 15 for the Norfolk State.

Neither team could get much offense going early on, which allowed the Spartans to take their second and last lead of the game at 9-8 on a 3-pointer from junior Alex Brown eight and a half minutes into the contest. The Ramblers then scored the next eight points of the game before buckets by junior Kyle Williams and sophomore Alex Long cut Loyola’s lead to 18-15 with 6:53 left in the half.

Just 30 seconds later, the Ramblers began a 14-2 run that lasted three and a half minutes and extended their advantage to 15, the largest of the half. Down 32-17 at that point, NSU scored the last seven points of the opening period to go into the locker room down 32-24.

Both teams shot right around 41 percent in the first half, although NSU connected on just 1-of-10 from long range. The Spartans ended the night 7-of-23.

Wade and Williams each hit treys early in the second half, and Long connected on a couple of shots from the foul line at 17:05 to cut Loyola’s lead to just one, 35-34. Milton Doyle and Bruno Skokna kept the Ramblers ahead with 3-pointers of their own, but Wade countered with two more from long range to again get the Spartans to within one. He then hit another jumper, this one just inside the 3-point line, at the 10:43mark to make it 51-50 in favor of Loyola.

After one more bucket by Wade two minutes later again cut the deficit to one, the fifth time in the period, the Ramblers scored 12 straight as NSU was held scoreless for a five-minute stretch. That pushed Loyola’s lead back to double digits with five and a half minutes left in the contest, and the advantage never fell into single digits again as the game wound down.

Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the second half. The Ramblers also attempted 13 more shots from the charity stripe after the intermission.

In addition to Wade, Williams scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting with a team-high seven rebounds. Junior Zaynah Robinson scored the last eight points of the game for the Spartans and finished with 10 overall.

Long totaled eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists. He helped NSU finish with a 34-27 edge on the glass and a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points.

Loyola shot 7-of-17 from 3-point range. They also held a 14-2 edge in points off turnovers thanks to the 12-turnover difference between the two squads. Doyle joined Custer and Jackson in double figures with 12 points.

After five straight games on the road, NSU will return to Norfolk to host Northern Kentucky this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Joseph Echols Hall.

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