Monroe, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Game two of the best-of-three championship series in the College Basketball Invitational takes place on Wednesday night with the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers looking to put away the ULM Warhawks at Fant- Ewing Coliseum.
The Ramblers won the first game in the series Monday night, 65-58, in Chicago to take the lead. With a win in Monroe, they clinch the tournament championship.
Loyola enters the clash having won four games in a row, but all were at home during the tournament. This will be the team's first true road game since a Feb. 25 matchup against Drake. The Ramblers are participating in their first Division I postseason since winning the NCAA championship in 1963.
ULM fell Monday night for the first time in its last four games. The Sun Belt Conference squad had won three in a row in its first program postseason appearance in just under 20 years. The Warhawks get the advantage of playing the next two at home against the Ramblers, if a third game is necessary.
Monday night's matchup was the first between the two programs in their history.
ULM jumped ahead of Loyola-Chicago at halftime, 26-24, but only held a lead as large as four points with just about seven and a half minutes to play in the opening frame. The Ramblers came storming back on their home court in the second half, connecting on 53.3 percent of their field goal attempts in the period to move past the Warhawks for the victory. The Ramblers finished the contest shooting 50.9 percent from the floor with a perfect 7-of-7 mark from the free-throw line. Earl Peterson led the charge offensively with 16 points, while Christian Thomas chipped in 12, Montel James added 11 and Devon Turk contributed 10 points for the home team. Peterson and Thomas combined for 22 second-half points in the comeback win.
Thomas, thanks to his 12-point effort on Monday, has pulled even with Milton Doyle in terms of scoring. Both players enter the second game of the CBI championship series averaging 11.3 ppg, though Doyle has been rather ineffective coming off the bench. He shot 3-of-10 on Monday with six total points in 24 minutes off the pine. James, Peterson and Turk are all averaging scoring totals greater than 8.0 ppg for the Ramblers, who as a unit collect 62.8 ppg on 47.2 percent shooting. The team's defense has been stellar, and was once again Monday by limiting ULM to 58 points.
It certainly wasn't the prettiest performance by ULM offensively on Monday against Loyola in Chicago. The Warhawks converted 37.9 percent of their field-goal attempts in the loss, which included an 8-of-23 mark from 3-point distance. Tylor Ongwae tallied a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds to anchor the squad, while Jamaal Samuel led the way offensively with 15 points. Justin Roberson added 11 points in the losing effort, and Majok Deng notched 10 points with six rebounds. The Warhawks were heavily outscored in the paint by the Ramblers, 34-18.
Ongwae continues to be the go-to player for the Warhawks this season, and will once again be asked to step up with the team's back against a wall in a championship elimination game. Ongwae posts 14.4 ppg, adding in solid marks of 6.7 rpg and 108 total assists. Deng (10.5 ppg) leads the team on the boards with 7.5 rpg, and Nick Coppola's 140 assists leads the way as well. As a collective, the Warhawks are netting 64.6 ppg heading into the second game of the title series, and are allowing opponents to net 60.4 ppg on 38.4 percent shooting.