Porter Moser file photo

Loyola University basketball coach Porter Moser has seen a "better bounce" in the step of his first-place Ramblers in practice as the Missouri Valley Conference season hits the home stretch.

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY PHOTO

NORMAL — Porter Moser is like any college coach across the country. As the season winds down, so does the length of practices.

Those two-and-a-half or three-hour sessions, common back in October and November, are long gone with the wear and tear of a season piling up.

Yet Moser, in his seventh season as Loyola's coach, is noticing a difference with his Ramblers this season.

"I would say being in the position we're in, there's a better bounce in your step (at practice) than if you were at the bottom," said Moser during Monday's MVC coaches teleconference. "I can tell you that first hand."

Loyola enjoys a one-game lead in the Missouri Valley Conference race with six games left. The Ramblers, 19-5 overall and 9-3 in the Valley, entertain Drake on Wednesday.

Southern Illinois (16-9, 8-4) is right on Loyola's heels heading into Thursday's 8 p.m. game against Illinois State at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds (13-11) are tied for third with Bradley (17-8) and Drake (13-12) at 7-5.

Sometimes playing three Valley games in seven days, Moser said it is important to keep your team as fresh as possible. That means more than just shorter practices.

"Guys have to be great at recovery, sleep and nutrition," he said. "We talk about that a lot."

SIU's practices are different than some of the other Valley contenders. A slew of injuries has cut the Salukis' rotation drastically. Some games, SIU has used only six players. 

Salukis senior forward Thik Bol, a preseason all-Valley second-team choice, didn't play a minute this season with a knee injury and is being redshirted. Another key front-line performer, 6-6 senior Jonathan Wiley, played 15 games before being lost for the season with a knee injury.  

"We rarely go contact in practice right now because we can't afford to," said SIU coach Barry Hinson.

Hinson anticipated Monday's practice would last 75 minutes. 

"Probably 30 minutes will be at a high pace and the rest will be spent teaching and a walkthrough," he said. "After that, we'll do some sort of stretch/yoga. We're having to do that literally every practice."

ISU coach Dan Muller said late-season practices for the Redbirds have gone  longer than in the past, although the team never goes more than 80 minutes. The reason is simple.

"They need constant pressure by the coaches to show them how hard it is," he said. "We relax too easily."

And sometimes, there is more than one practice a day. That happened last Friday, the day before playing Evansville, when ISU convened on Doug Collins Court after the Redbird women were finished with their game.

"You could say we practiced again, but the truth is my team didn't show up to practice the first time we got together (in the afternoon)," said Muller. "I kicked them out and then we came back to practice.

"If they don't come to practice, we usually go really long or I'll say, get out of here, I'll see you later. We'll start over ... the competitive nature and fire and edge, that's what we struggle with." 

Timmer tops Drake scoring: Senior guard Reed Timmer became Drake's all-time leading scorer on Saturday when the Bulldogs beat Bradley, 78-68, at Peoria, snapping the Braves' 14-game home winning streak.

Timmer poured in a career-high 32 points to give him 1,812 points, surpassing Josh Young's school mark of 1,789 points set from 2006-10. The 6-foot-1 Timmer moved into 30th place on the all-time Valley scoring list.

"It would have been hard to script it any better," said first-year Drake coach Niko Medved. "We had not talked about it at all. Obviously we were aware of the situation.

"For us to win a game like that against a really good Bradley team, and Reed perform individually the way he did and to break the record, what a phenomenal night for our team and him."

Player of Week honors: Timmer and Evansville's Ryan Taylor were named MVC Co-Player of the Week, while SIU's Kavion Pippen was named MVC Newcomer of the Week.

Taylor averaged 28.5 points against Northern Iowa and ISU while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 64.7 percent outside the arc. The 6-6 junior guard scored a season-high 32 points and made 8 of 12 3-point attempts against the Redbirds.

Timmer averaged 27.0 points against SIU and Bradley.

Pippen, a 6-10 junior center, averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in wins over Drake and Valparaiso. It was his third Newcomer of the Week honor, one fewer than ISU's Milik Yarbrough.

300 for Hinson: SIU's win over Valpo last Saturday was the 300th of Hinson's coaching career. He is the winningest active coach in the Valley.

Hinson achieved 36 of those victories in two years at Oral Roberts, 169 in nine years at Missouri State and 95 in five-plus years at SIU. 

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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