Loyola Ramblers Focused On ‘Winning The Now'

Loyola is coming off a 32-6 season in which it advanced to the Final Four.

Eli Hershkovich
October 10, 2018 - 11:40 am
Loyola coach Porter Moser

Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- During the spring and into the summer, Loyola coach Porter Moser studied how recent teams handled a program-altering campaign. Locally, Northwestern finished 10th in the Big Ten this past season season following its first NCAA Tournament berth in 2017.

Moser landed on a solution once he spent time with Kevin Eastman, who served as a college basketball coach for 22 seasons before joining the staffs of the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers’ staff. One of Eastman’s overarching themes in his book "Why the Best Are the Best" was "winning the now."

Moser decided to transfer to his players, continuing to focus on the task ahead instead of reflecting on a sensational run last March.

"Summer, fall, conditioning, boot camps, that’s not as glorifying as the NCAA Tournament," Moser said. "Everything has got to be about winning the now. Whether it’s an on-the-court workout or in the weight room, we’re our own opponent."

Last season, Loyola advanced to its first Final Four since 1963, falling 69-57 to Michigan in the national semifinals to conclude a 32-6 campaign. Moser noted that his team can’t assume another run is in store, especially after starters Donte Ingram and Ben Richardson and key reserve Aundre Jackson all graduated.

Moser’s floor-spacing offense garnered praise amid a historic season, but Loyola wing Marques Townes emphasized the other end of the court. The Ramblers had the sixth-best scoring defense (62.6 points per game allowed) in the nation a season ago. Their unit finished tied for 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency as well, yielding only 0.95 points per possession. 

Richardson -- the 2017-18 Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year -- was a major cog in their success, hounding the opponent’s top scoring guard.

"I gotta take a bigger role defensively," Townes said. "We have a lot of young guys this year. Me and Clayton (Custer) being the leaders, we gotta show these guys how to get stops defensively. Our defense creates our offense."

As the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Custer will be an anchor of the team along with Townes, who averaged 11.1 points last season, second-best on the team behind Custer's 13.2. Much is also expected out of sophomore big man Cameron Krutwig, the reigning MVC Freshman of the Year. 

Sophomore wing Lucas Williamson -- a two-time state champion at Whitney Young -- will be asked to fill a bigger role and be a defensive stopper. Redshirt sophomore Aher Uguak, who’s eligible to play after transferring from New Mexico in June 2017, could be a critical force as well. His 6-foot-7-inch, 225-pound frame fits the mold of Moser’s recent position-less players who stretch the floor and handle the ball.

The Ramblers' efficient offense of a season ago shouldn’t be a given to repeat itself, even with Custer, Townes and Krutwig back in the fold. Townes mentioned that him, Custer and Krutwig will need to escalate their game in isolation situations.

Despite hoping for more power-conference opponents, Loyola boasts a tougher non-conference schedule than a campaign ago. It hosts Nevada in the MVC/Mountain West on Nov. 27 and Maryland in Baltimore on Dec. 8. The Wolf Pack -- whom the Ramblers beat in the Sweet 16 last March -- should rank in the top 10 of many preseason polls.

Loyola also could be on a collision course to face Boston College at the Fort Myers Tip-Off in November.

But adhering to the message of Moser, Townes has his eyes on a different date. That would be Nov. 6, when Loyola opens the season against UMKC and Gentile Arena. He's focused on "winning the now," recalling Moser's conversation with Northwestern coach Chris Collins about the Wildcats lacking a game-by-game mentality in disappointing last season.

"They (the Wildcats) were worried about the end," Townes said. "That’s what we’re trying not to do this year ... When you think too far ahead, you’re just skipping the process."

Eli Hershkovich is a producer for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @EliHershkovich.