The Loyola men’s basketball team took down the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in an 81-75 overtime thriller.
The Ramblers (10-2) squared off against UIC (5-6) in an inner-city rivalry matchup that was Loyola’s third game in a row against an old Horizon League opponent.
The biggest surprise of the day came before the tip-off, when the team announced junior forward Donte Ingram would start after missing three games with a sprained MCL. Ingram, who hurt his knee against Norfolk State University on Nov. 30, was initially expected to miss four to six weeks, but returned after only 16 days.
Ingram not only started, but was on the court for 36 minutes as he scored a career-high 20 points and added a team-high 9 rebounds.
UIC came into the game with momentum, having upset DePaul University 80-75 on Dec. 14. Despite losing sophomore forward Dikembe Dixson — their leading scorer — the Flames shot 46 percent from the field and came close to matching their season average of 81 points per game.
Loyola dominated in the first half but played slopily in the second. The Ramblers’ eight turnovers and 17 missed shots in the second half allowed the Flames to eliminate an eight-point deficit and take a six-point lead with fewer than three minutes left in the game.
Loyola showed its tenacity and clawed its way back, culminating in a three-pointer by Ingram with two seconds left in regulation. Ingram, who had missed from behind the arc just seconds earlier, said that he needed to brush the miss from his memory and move forward.
“I’m just happy, it’s a blessing,” said Ingram. “Whatever I can do to help the team win it, I’m going to do it.”
Head coach Porter Moser said he admired the team’s grit in fighting to tie the game up so late.
“I’m really proud that we … didn’t have our best shot and could find a way to win,” said Moser. “The mentality of our guys is really tough minded.”
In overtime, Loyola outscored UIC 13-7, taking the lead for good and extinguishing the Flames’ hope for their second upset in a row. After their fifth straight win, the Ramblers move on to play the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio, on Dec. 20.