Loyola coach Porter Moser on hot start: ‘This is just the beginning’

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Florida guard Egor Koulechov (left) and Loyola guard Marques Townes battle for a rebound on Dec. 6 in Gainesville, Fla. | Ron Irby/AP

Loyola’s game Saturday with Norfolk State could’ve been a trap. Three days removed from a landmark victory at then-No. 5 Florida, the Ramblers hosted a winless team that that didn’t figure to provide a challenge unless Loyola let them.

Loyola didn’t, winning 80-52 to improve to 10-1 while avoiding a massive letdown.

“We wanted to stay poised and just do what we did against Florida, just play a defensive-minded game, run our plays, run our sets,” guard Marques Townes said. “Coach (Porter Moser) preached to us before the game just to stay level because the win against Florida was huge but we just wanted to stay poised, and I think we showed that during the Norfolk State game.”

The ability to stay poised and focused will help the Ramblers, who have battled a slew of injuries but gotten off to the school’s best start since 1965. They received votes in this week’s AP and coaches’ polls and the program is getting as much attention as it has in years. Players are getting recognized around campus and on social media, but the Ramblers know they have to block that out as much as possible.

After all it is only December, and the Ramblers are targeting success in later parts of the season. They stress that what happened against Florida and Norfolk State is part of a process, as is this Saturday’s game at Milwaukee.

“We are still chasing. We are still hunting the championship. I told our guys, this is just the beginning. We’ve got to stay the ones that are hunting this championship, hunting to play our best,” Moser said. “I think what (Saturday’s win) says is that this team is hungry. This team plays really hard.”

They’ve also embraced Moser’s message of constant improvement.

To make sure his players’ minds were right after the Florida win – and in the midst of all the praise they were getting – Moser showed the Ramblers tape of the Gators game and highlighted places they could have been better. Instead of scoffing, the players took the message to heart.

“They responded. It wasn’t like they were sitting there going ‘Man, coach, you’re tripping. You’re not showing all of our good plays.’ They know about those,” Moser said. “We wanted to have the mentality of, we need to get better after this game. We can get better next game.”

If the Ramblers keep getting better, who knows how high their ceiling is.

“If we execute our stuff, we have the talent, we have the key pieces to do that, it just shows that we can be a really good team,” Townes said. “We can compete with any team in the country, really.”

Follow me on Twitter @BrianSandalow.

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