Porter Moser had a feeling his first year at Loyola would be a rocky one.
He was wrong.
It’s been worse. For the season to be considered rocky, the Ramblers would have needed some ups to go with their downs. Loyola is winless in the Horizon League at 0-13. It hasn’t won since Dec. 22 and is 5-18 overall.
“It’s not a lot of ups,” Moser said heading into Saturday’s game with crosstown rival UIC.
Moser recognized when he took the job Loyola’s roster had holes. To make the situation worse, Courtney Stanley, who was expected to start at point guard, was lost for the season with a ACL tear in September, and Jordan Hicks, another expected starter, had an offseason setback while returning from his second consecutive broken foot injury. Hicks didn’t play his first game until Dec. 19 and is only now starting to get back into a rhythm.
The Ramblers’ luck hasn’t improved as the season has unfolded either. Starters Ben Averkamp, Joe Crisman and Walt Gibler have all missed multiple games due to injury. Crisman, alone, has had a concussion, a high ankle sprain, a shoulder blade contusion and a broken left hand.
Moser admitted the season has been trying for him and his players, but he hasn’t lost sight of the ultimate goal. And if he needs any reminding of it, his old boss, Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus, helps with that.
“He keeps on reminding me it’s a journey,” Moser said. “He’s all about the long haul. Too many coaches try to come in and shortcut things whether it’s with recruiting or winning games. I look at Year 5 at Saint Louis, and they’re hovering around the top of the Atlantic 10 and will probably get a NCAA tournament bid. It takes time.
“I didn’t have any illusions of grandeur that it was going to come all this year. I’m obviously extremely disappointed. I have a fire in my belly to win. That’s what you want, but I’m not disconcerted. I think that’s a big difference. I know where we’re going with this program.”
Moser doesn’t think this year’s team is that far off either. The Ramblers lost to Youngstown State in overtime and played within six points of Butler and Wright State.
Despite the difficult season, Moser has stressed to his players they still have a chance to finish the year strong.
“Obviously, we’re not going to win the league,” Moser said. “This whole week we talked about what do we want out of these last few weeks. Are we going to be a team that packs it in?
“You can’t dwell on what’s transpired. You can only learn and try to get better. That’s our only option.”