The first of several Battles of Loyola takes place Friday when Loyola Marymount University visits Loyola University in Chicago, ending a quick coast-to-coast road trip.
The Lions, who improved their record to 5-1 with a 116-101 victory over Southern California College on Monday, flew to New York for a game against Brooklyn College on Wednesday and travel to Chicago today.
"It's a good test for us, kind of like an NBA schedule," said Loyola Marymount Coach Paul Westhead, who formerly coached the Lakers and Chicago Bulls in the National Basketball Assn. "We play here (home) Monday, in New York Wednesday, in Chicago Friday then back in Los Angeles on Saturday."
The Lions will play their namesake in 6,000-seat Alumni Hall at the University of Illinois-Chicago Circle, where the Ramblers figure to offer stiff competition.
The Ramblers have a home-grown team--no player comes from more than 35 miles out of Chicago--featuring two senior stars, 6-9 center Andre Moore and 6-3 guard Bernard Jackson.
Moore, out of Chicago's Carver High, which produced pro stars Terry Cummings and Cazzie Russell, is drawing pro attention by averaging 23.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. He has the touch to be a three-point threat but Coach Gene Sullivan prefers that he operate inside. The quick Jackson averages 23 points, mostly on long jumpers and finesse moves, and hit four three-pointers in a game last week.
The lineup also includes 6-6 senior forward Bobby Clark, 6-6 sophomore forward Gerald Hayward and sophomore point guard Keith Carter.
The Ramblers are 2-3 but the losses came to Syracuse, South Carolina and Georgia.
The Lions continue to be led by their junior forward combination of Mike Yoest and Mark Armstrong. Yoest is averaging 27.5 points and 9.2 rebounds and shooting 65% from the field while Armstrong is chipping in 14 points and dominating the boards with 13.3 per game. Senior point guard Chris Nikchevich is averaging 15 points and 11.3 assists, and guards Dennis Vogel and Jeff Fryer are also scoring in double figures. Nikchevich, who hit five of six three-point shots Monday, is shooting 11 of 21 from three-point range.
Equally encouraging for the Lions is that two key players are returning to a measure of health after injuries. Center Vic Lazzaretti, who has bone spurs in an ankle, is still coming off the bench but showed flashes of his old form against Southern California College, hitting four of five shots for eight points in 16 minutes. Sophomore guard Enoch Simmons is also back in uniform after resting a sore surgical knee for two weeks.
Westhead also liked what he saw Monday of 6-10 sophomore John Veargason, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds in 21 minutes against a smaller team.
"There was a whole series of good signs," Westhead said. "I had a chance to try different combinations. I was very pleased with John Veargason. We got Enoch Simmons back into the game. He's going to need four games to get back in the flow. We got some good minutes out of Lazzaretti. We're ready for the challenge."
After Loyola the Lions play at Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday. After Christmas they play host to yet another Loyola--the Baltimore clan--on Dec. 29.