TERRE HAUTE —
Coming home is something everyone looks forward to and Loyola forward Matt O’Leary is no different.
The Terre Haute native made his return to his home city as his Ramblers visited Indiana State on Wednesday.
There to greet O’Leary were enough family and friends to nearly monopolize the courtside seats at Hulman Center. Nearly all were decked out in maroon-and-gold Loyola colors ready to cheer the former Terre Haute North star on.
The support was there, but it was a quiet day for O’Leary. The sophomore played 25 minutes in Loyola’s 70-58 loss to the Sycamores. O’Leary did not score, but had four assists and two rebounds.
Bottom line for O’Leary? The Ramblers didn’t win and that put a damper on the day.
“It was fun to come back and see everybody and play in a place I grew up in. It was fun to play against [ISU], but it wasn’t how I wanted it to go. We didn’t win,” O’Leary said.
Loyola shot 66.7 percent in the first half, but its inability to keep ISU off the boards — ISU had a 36-25 advantage, including 16 offensive rebounds — canceled out some of the good the Ramblers did.
In the second half, ISU’s defense improved dramatically and it was too much for Loyola to overcome.
“They came out and played really hard. They played really well defensively and outrebounded us,” O’Leary said.
Loyola coach Porter Moser, who recruited O’Leary when the Ramblers were a member of the Horizon League, heaped praise on O’Leary calling him “an unbelievable kid”.
Moser would like O’Leary to bring something to the table he regularly did when he was at Terre Haute North — his accurate shooting. O’Leary took just one shot on Wednesday.
“He’s the best passer we have, his IQ is tremendous and he’s a way better shooter than he’s showing. He has that green light. He likes the pass better than the shot right now,” Moser said.
Moser lamented the fact that O’Leary didn’t redshirt, but thinks O’Leary can still bulk up.
“He could’ve used a year to redshirt to get his body ready. He needs another 20 pounds of strength. I think that will help him as he gets older. He’s still growing. He’s grown an inch in the last year,” O’Leary said.
Moser also acknowledged that coming home can be tough on a player, especially when the Ramblers were also playing their first-ever Missouri Valley Conference contest as well.
“Sometimes it is. You hope they get off the schneid early. Make a shot, get an easy one, but he didn’t. That’s tough. I think there’s a lot of pressure on him, but we need Matt. We need eight or nine guys contributing. We need Matt to shoot the ball,” Moser said.
O’Leary thinks Loyola will find its way in the MVC. The Ramblers played hard. Now Loyola needs consistency — its struggled in second halves — and more production from its bench to make progress.
“We played really hard, and if we do that,, we’ll stick with teams and beat some teams in this conference. We have to put together two halves. Its been our problem all year,” O’Leary said.
O’Leary and his Ramblers play their first MVC home game on Sunday against Missouri State.
Return home was fun … loss to ISU wasn’t
TERRE HAUTE —
Coming home is something everyone looks forward to and Loyola forward Matt O’Leary is no different.
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- Guts, sweat, tears: Sycamores fall to perfect Shockers