The Ramblers almost shocked the Shockers.
In a game virtually nobody expected to be close, Loyola’s men’s basketball team played arguably its best game in its three seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) but lost to No. 1 Wichita State 66-58.
The final score doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Loyola led for the majority of the second half, including a seven point lead with nine minutes left in the game. Senior guard Devon Turk led the Ramblers with 16 points and added five rebounds.
Loyola faced nearly an impossible situation on the second day of the tournament in the Shockers’ first game of the weekend. Wichita had something to prove after failing to win last year’s MVC Championship, and the Ramblers had lost three of their last five games going into the tournament.
After a tight win last night over Bradley University, Loyola had a quick turnaround into today’s game. During the regular season, Wichita State and Loyola faced off twice. Both times the Shockers dominated the Ramblers and won by more than 20 points.
Going into today’s game, everything pointed to Wichita State winning big.
But it was the Ramblers who stormed out of the gates. A scramble after the opening tip led to Milton Doyle’s first dunk of the season with just two seconds into the game, and Montel James followed with a monster slam of his own on the next possession. Seconds after the tip, the tone of the game was already set, and before they knew it, the Shockers were down to No. 8 Loyola 7-2 less than four minutes into the game.
“It was an uncomfortable game,” said Wichita State’s head coach Gregg Marshall. “That’s one word for it.”
But Wichita State, a powerhouse mid-major team, came back and led for the majority of the first half. Turk’s 12 points in the first half kept Loyola in the game as the Ramblers trailed the Shockers 30-21 heading into the locker room.
If Loyola wanted any chance to survive another day, something had to change, and it did.
Donte Ingram came up big at the start of the second half with a huge three. From there on, the Ramblers dominated on both ends of the court. Loyola went on a 16-2 run and found itself leading the game by seven points with just more than nine minutes left.
But Shockers guard Ron Baker is one of the best players in the country for a reason. He put Wichita State on his back, dropping 15 points in the second half, including a key triple at the end of the shot clock with a hand in his face. That three put the Shockers up for good.
From there, Loyola lost any hope of an MVC championship title.
Barring a postseason berth, four senior Ramblers’ careers are over. James, Turk and guards Earl Peterson and Jeff White are expected to graduate in May.