Loyola Chicago blows big lead, comes back to edge DePaul

Loyola Chicago blew a big lead in the first half but recovered after the break as Lucas Williamson scored 15 points to lead the Ramblers to a 68-64 victory over DePaul in the Red Line rivalry Saturday afternoon in Chicago.

In the first meeting of the teams since 2012, Chris Knight scored 13 points and made a slam-dunk with 45 seconds left that helped seal it. Aher Aguak added 12 points as Loyola (7-2), coming off a trip to the Sweet 16, relied on its big-game experience.

Williamson also led the Ramblers’ defense, playing a big role in containing his former high school teammate Javon Freeman-Liberty, the Big East scoring leader, who managed just seven points, 16 fewer than his average, fouled out with 3:58 left. Williamson and Freeman-Liberty played together at Chicago’s Whitney Young High.

David Jones scored 19 points for DePaul (6-1), but only four came in the second half when Loyola used its superior depth to take command. Jones added a game-high eight rebounds. Nick Ongenda added 11 points, including four in the final three minutes to help keep DePaul close.

The Blue Demons had a six-point lead early in the second half but the Ramblers answered with a nine-point run, climaxed by a 3-pointer from Ryan Schwieger, who finished with nine points and five rebounds.

A six-point run, triggered by a jumper by Schwieger, midway through the half, put Loyola in command for good.

It was a wild first half. As DePaul missed its first eight shots, Loyola roared to a 13-0 lead. Jalen Terry finally broke the ice with a 3-pointer. But the Ramblers remained in control as a layup by Ryan Schwieger gave them their biggest lead, 23-8.

But DePaul recovered with a 19-3 run. Jones scored 10 of his points during the spree and Terry highlighted the surge with a 3-pointer and an alley-oop slam.

When Freeman-Liberty scored his first two points of the game, hitting a pair of free throws to culminate the run, DePaul had its first lead, 27-26, and the Blue Demons had needed just 9:29 to wipe out the 15-point deficit.

Freeman-Liberty remained on the attack as he hit a 3-pointer, tipped in a shot and fed Jones for a layup as DePaul took a 37-31 lead into the break.