Home / News / The place to go for basketball in Chicago? Loyola’s Gentile Arena.

The place to go for basketball in Chicago? Loyola’s Gentile Arena.

Forget Madhouse in Madison. Home to Chicago’s Atlantic 10 team, Gentile Arena is the ideal place for basketball.

After experiencing what coach Drew Valentine called a “bummer” On Tuesday, St. Bonaventure 79-64Loyola faces NBA second-round pick DaRon Holmes II and 21st-seeded Dayton on Friday night.

Photos: Loyola 77, No. 21Dayton 72

Throughout the season, Ramblers fans “showed up and showed up” creating one of the best sports environments in the city. But the idea of ​​beating a ranked team and the allure of free t-shirts brought the “Package” into full force. Students began lining up to enter the arena from 10 a.m. onwards for the weather alert at 8 p.m.

Juniors Nyah Moore and Melisa Suljevic, friends who have attended nearly every Loyola home game this season, arrived seven hours early to secure their spot in the lineup. Armed with Loyola regalia, cowboy hats, and signs disparaging the state of Ohio, the enthusiastic duo told me they always sat in the front row of the student section.

“It’s much better than last year. We don’t talk about last year, it was a minor glitch. But we found ourselves again,” said Suljevic. “It’s a lot of fun because people know each other from the games and we become friends a lot. The atmosphere is great because we have something to be proud of. “So when we’re good, it makes us feel like one big, old community.”

Suljevic and Moore, who were on Loyola’s cheerleading squad last year and experienced the final-place season from a different perspective, think this year’s team is something special.

“I think watching this team progress, they all epitomize the idea that this is a family. You can see that they feel it. It’s not just something they say, they embody what it is to be a Rambler,” Moore said. “They play as a family and they have each other’s backs. And no matter what we’re out there, Fans are family.”

Students generally begin entering Gentile Arena an hour before tip-off. They run to their section behind the media table, hoping to get as close as possible, and then shout as loud as they can. I sat across from them on Friday. I probably could have used earplugs, but I wouldn’t have been able to get the full gaming experience. The pack was so loud I couldn’t hear anyone but them and they never sat down even at halftime.

Flyers fans were a rowdy bunch, not to be applauded, but the Pack took it as a challenge and went harder. They stamped their feet, jeered, sang and danced. My body was shaking with the building and I was having trouble hearing the PA announcer. If Dayton broke away, Loyola students were doing everything they could to put their energy into the Ramblers.

Wearing feathered cowboy hats, Loyola students Melisa Sulievic (center left) and Nyah Moore cheer for the Ramblers at halftime against the Flyers at Gentile Arena on March 1, 2024. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

After a first half where the Ramblers defense did their best with 6-0 and 7-0 runs by the Flyers, Loyola fell behind 35-32. Loyola recovered in the second half Stunned Dayton 77-72. Freshman rim protector Miles Rubin was critical with four blocks. This was the program’s first home win over a ranked opponent since 1986. Loyola improved to 21-8 overall and 13-3 in A-10 play behind a 24-point performance from guard Des Watson and 19 points, 11 assists and 4 steals from Braden Norris. He starts the most games in program history.

Volume increased at Gentile Arena after Norris hit two critical three-pointers Made me wish for those earplugs again. They had achieved this. The atmosphere was more like what you’d expect from a professional playoff game than a regular-season game played at a small school in Rogers Park.

Valentine duly thanked the fans and asked them to return in his post-match opening statement.

“I need you for Saturday. I’m not looking forward, I promise you I’m not. I need you for Senior Day next Saturday,” he said in the postgame media room. “These guys deserve to be on the field at full capacity, so we need the support of all our fans. I know it’s spring break, but come early.”



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