Bears to face Ramblers for first time

CHICAGO, Ill. — The University of Central Arkansas Bears will face their second consecutive first-time opponent on Wednesday night when they take on the Loyola Chicago Ramblers at Gentile Arena.

The Bears (4-3), who just beat first-time foe Idaho State 81-77 on Sunday afternoon, will face a LUC team that is returning home for the first time in six games. The Ramblers (2-4) lost 61-55 at Harvard on Friday, their fifth consecutive road or neutral site game.

The Ramblers, coached by Drew Valentine in his second season, rose to fame in 2018 with an entertaining run to the NCAA Final Four under then-head coach Porter Moser, a former Little Rock head coach. Valentine was an assistant coach on that team that lost to Michigan in the semifinals. Valentine’s Ramblers won 25 games last year, the best by a first-year head coach in LUC history.

UCA had five players in double figures in its victory over Idaho State on Sunday in the final game of the Central Arkansas Classic at the Farris Center. The Bears got 16 points each from senior Eddy Kayouloud, junior Collin Cooper and sophomore Camren Hunter, while junior Masai Olowokere had his second straight double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. UCA made 10 three-pointers, with Cooper going 4 of 6.

For the season, UCA has made 60 threes, led by Cooper with 21. Hunter is UCA’s leading scorer at 16.9 points per game. Olowokere leads the rebounding chart at 8.1 per game, followed by Kayouloud at 6.3. Hunter hands out a team-best 4.1 assists per game.

The Ramblers, who compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, are led by 6-foot-6 junior forward Philip Alston, who averages 12.8 points per game. He is the only LUC player in double figures as the Ramblers average just 63 points per game.  Alston is also their leading rebounder at 6.3 per game. Tom Welch, a 6-8 senior forward, is shooting 91.3 percent (21 of 23) from the field this season.

Loyola has wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and University of Illinois-Chicago this season, with consecutive losses to Tulsa, Boise State, No. 24 Texas A&M and Harvard. The Ramblers have tough games remaining against Clemson, DePaul and Stanford, among others.

The game will be carried live on The Bear 91.3, 92.7 Jack FM, NBC Sports Chicago and ESPN+.