As Loudon Love was finishing his post-game interview after a 14-point, 12-rebound effort against Toledo, coach Scott Nagy walked by him in the media room and, without looking up, said loud enough for his center to hear: “Fourteen and 12. I’ll take that every time.”
That’s the kind of output the Raiders can usually expect from the preseason first-team All-Horizon League pick. It was his first double-double of the season after posting a whopping 13 as a freshman last year.
But the 6-foot-9, 270-pound Love downplayed his performance.
“It’s only one game. It’s something I need to do consistently for our team to be successful,” he said.
He was more excited about the Raiders’ 84-74 victory where they dominated from start to finish. The Rockets were 23-11 last season and are considered a Mid-American Conference contender.
“The win is the most important thing. Winning or losing is what matters when it comes to whether I feel successful or not — and also how I play on defense,” he said. “I can get lazy on the defensive end. Some people might not notice, some probably do. If I don’t have an impact on defense and protect the rim, it’s a lot easier for (opponents) to make play, and it puts pressure on the guards. And I want to do anything I can to make it easier on our guards.”
Love also had two blocks, but he had difficulty against the Rockets’ Luke Knapke, a 6-foot-11 junior from Marion Local who put on a shooting display. He hit all three of his 3-pointers in the first 3:40 of the game and finished 6-for-6 from the arc while finishing with a career-high 20 points.
He’d made only one 3-pointer in the Rockets’ first two games, and his previous career high for treys was four.
“He had confidence,” Love said. “I definitely didn’t think he’d shoot it that much, but he obviously did. He saw me and attacked me coming off ball screens.
“I think early on, I was contesting it pretty well, but I was just a little late and had some bad closeouts. Obviously, when you’re 6-11, it’s easy for him to shoot over people with that length.”
The Raiders eventually switched the 6-11 Parker Ernsthausen on Knapke. And Love was able to get back to what he does best — muscling people inside and being active on the boards.
His 12 rebounds are a season-high, and he’s averaging 15.3 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 65.6 percent from the field through three games.
He led the league in rebounding last year with a 9.8 average, the third-best mark in the Raiders’ Division-I era (since 1987), while scoring 12.9 points per game.
He’s such a threat in the post that opponents do their best to nudge him off the blocks. During the rugged action against the Rockets, Love ended up with a bruised knee (he went to the locker room late in the first half for medical attention) and a large scratch on his chest that bloodied his jersey.
Told spectators may not understand how physical it is inside, Love replied: “People probably do if they ever fought with their brothers. That’s kind of what it’s like. It’s just constant for 40 minutes.”
His teammates appreciate what he does.
“When he’s playing hard and flying around for rebounds, it gives everyone a lot of confidence, especially the young guys,” said Cole Gentry, noting how freshman guard Skyelar Potter had a breakout game with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“I think the team really feeds off his energy when he’s out there bumping into people. We see that, and everyone else starts doing it.”
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