News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana State University

November 27, 2013

O’Leary eyes return to Hulman Center

Former TH North star opens MVC play with Loyola at ISU on Jan. 1

TERRE HAUTE — Former Terre Haute North standout Matt O’Leary is hoping to help Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser turn the program into a new chapter of success in a new conference.

The Ramblers are close to a month away from their debut in the Missouri Valley Conference, which takes place New Year’s Day in Hulman Center.

O’Leary, a sophomore coming off a career-high 14 point in the Ramblers’ win against SIU-Edwardsville, could match up with former Patriots’ teammate Justin Gant. O’Leary is better equipped to battle with the posts of the MVC as a sophomore, Moser said at MVC Media Day last month.

“He has three older brothers [Dan, Marc and Chris] and his mother told him when we recruited him that all three older brothers grew an inch after getting to college,” Moser said. “So I went to church, lit my candle and everything turned out right. Matt came in [as a freshman] at 6-7, 198 and he’s 6-8, 225 now. He’s grown, he’s bigger and he’s definitely a key factor in our development plans in the program.”

O’Leary is averaging 4.1 rebounds in 24.4 minutes through nine games to go with four blocks and eight steals. Offensively, O’Leary is fifth on the team in scoring at 7.3 points-per-game and third on the squad in assists (2.9 per game).

“Just trying to contribute any way I can,” said O’Leary, who added before the season that improving defensively was the goal in the offseason.

 “Definitely hoping to make an impact on the defensive end, get more rebounds. I wasn’t strong enough to help on the glass as much as I wanted to, especially now that we’re in the Valley.”

The Ramblers (3-4) will visit Mississippi State on Sunday in the squad’s biggest challenge of the nonconference.

Starting two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman — with O’Leary serving as sixth man after starting two early games — Loyola is not a veteran team. They’re struggling to put teams away, O’Leary said.

“[In their first two losses] we were up double digits in the second half,” O’Leary said during a phone interview recently. “Those are games we had won that should have won. We’re young, we’ve just got to come together and play defense in the second half. And finish off games better.”

Inconsistency was a problem a year ago as well as Loyola went 15-16 overall. O’Leary was among several young Ramblers to work hard in the offseason.

“I’ve progressed by adding strenghth. I put on about 15 pounds. As a team, we’ve definitely been working on defense,” O’Leary said. “We were up and down last year. We had a lot of winning streaks and losing streaks, we’re working on being more consistent.”

O’Leary scored 3.8 points-per-game as a freshman, knocking down 14-of-56 (25 percent) from beyond the arc and 44-of-117 (37.6 percent) overall.

“We had so many injuries down the stretch last year, Matt got a lot of valuable time, and I think that’s benefitting him,” Moser said.

O’Leary is hitting 50 percent of his shots so far this season but is off to a slow start from the 3-point arc, going 3-of-13. He’s hoping to provide a boost as a big man who can spread the defense.

“The system fits me well. It’s a pick and pop system. Allows me to use my shooting ability,” O’Leary said.

He’ll hope to have that outside shot going when playing in Hulman Center for the first time since teaming with Gant to play against Terre Haute South.

ISU, picked second in the MVC, will signal the beginning of a challenging grind in the new conference for O’Leary and his squad.

“Looking forward to going against former teammate Justin Gant,” O’Leary said. “The Valley definitely has a better reputaiton than the Horizon League, and I’m sure it will live up to that.”

 

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