Loyola University’s men’s basketball team is off to its best 11-game start in 42 years and has a victory over a top-five team on the road on its resume.
On the surface, those are surprising facts for a program that has six winning seasons since 2000.
For Jacobs graduate Cameron Krutwig, the team’s freshman center, and his Ramblers’ teammates, winning hasn’t been a shock.
“We could see it every day in practice,” the 6-foot-9 Krutwig said. “We always compete with each other. Leading up to the first game, we competed in everything we did, and we charted wins and losses. That instilled a competitive nature in us.”
Coaches would split the players into teams, announced a game situation and let the team go at it.
“They would say, ‘This team’s up four [points] with two minutes left. See who wins,’ ” Krutwig said.
The Ramblers, who are 10-1 and still gaining attention for a 65-59 win Dec. 6 over No. 5 Florida, also played five-on-four, three-on-two and two-on-one situations.
“They were gritty drills,” Krutwig said. “It’s just fight and compete. That really helped us build that competitive spirit we’ve used to beat Florida and everybody else.”
Krutwig has started eight games and is averaging
8.3 points and 6.4 rebounds, along with producing a team-high eight steals. On Monday, he was named the Missouri Valley Conference’s men’s basketball Newcomer of the Week.
In a pair of wins last week, he averaged 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
“I made my choice to come here because I wanted to come in right away and make an impact,” he said. “That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing. Game by game, I keep building confidence.”
One of Krutwig’s best games was at Florida, when he piled up 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Krutwig said he’s had a bigger effect on defense, thanks to focusing on communication and losing more than 30 pounds after the high school season ended.
“I thought I could come in right away and be a threat,” Krutwig said. “My job is to clean up the glass, finish my easy [opportunities] on offense and talk on defense.”
Loyola’s job going forward is to forget about the joy of winning in Gainesville.
“I think we’re past that game,” Krutwig said. “It’s last week. It’s over. It’s on to the next one.”
The Ramblers close their nonconference schedule Saturday at UW-Milwaukee then begin MVC play Friday at Missouri State, the preseason favorite to win the league title.
“There’s always another game,” Krutwig said. “But we hope [Florida] keeps winning.”
Cornerstone’s big shot: Senior guard Michael Bradshaw (Prairie Ridge) is the top 3-point shooter and third-leading scorer this season for NAIA Cornerstone University, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation.
The Golden Eagles (12-2) are on a 12-game winning streak and were chosen Tuesday as the National Association of Basketball Coaches as its NAIA national team of the week.
Bradshaw has connected on 33 3-pointers and is the team’s third-leading scorer with a career-best 13.9 points a game. His scoring average is more than double his previous career high last season (6.6).
The Golden Eagles are off to a perfect 6-0 start in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference.
All-region runners: Prairie Ridge grad Andie Shine was the first University of Iowa cross country runner since 2012 to earn all-region honors after she finished 20th last month at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Ames, Iowa.
Shine improved 70 places from her regional finish last season, running the 6-kilometer race in a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 46.2 seconds.
University of Illinois men’s runner Jesse Reiser (McHenry West) finished 12th overall in the 10K regional men’s race at Iowa State. His time of 29:20.9 helped the Illini place fourth as a team in regionals. Reiser finished more than a minute faster this season than his previous personal-best all-region effort in 2015 of 30:34.6.
NACC football stars: Senior linebacker Austin Nirva was one of three players from Benedictine University to earn first-team All-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference football honors this fall. Nirva, a Prairie Ridge grad, led the Eagles (7-3) in tackles after transferring from Indiana’s St. Joseph’s College.
Nirva led Division III Benedictine with 72 tackles and contributed eight tackles for loss and two sacks.
McHenry East grad Cody Patchett, a junior linebacker at Aurora University, earned second-team honors. He finished second in tackles (56) and tackles for loss (six) for the Spartans (5-5).
Augie awards: Huntley grad Emily Westermeyer was chosen as one of three volleyball players to share team MVP honors at D-III Augustana College, the school announced Monday.
A senior outside hitter, Westermeyer led the Vikings in kills (312) and total attacks (1,014) this season.
For her career, she ranks in the top 25 all time at Augustana in kills per game (18th, 2.35), attack attempts (21st, 2,074) and kills (25th, 621).
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.