What went down: The Loyola men’s basketball team (18-5, 8-3) traveled to Peoria to take on Bradley University Jan. 31. After mounting a comeback in the second half, Loyola lost 69-67 in the final seconds. The loss snapped Loyola’s seven-game winning streak and cut its lead in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings to one game.
How it happened: The Loyola defense had a rough start, allowing Bradley to take six more shots in the first half and trailing 37-29 at the break. However, the Ramblers rallied and got as close as 64-64 with 46 seconds left in the game. After Bradley’s Nate Kennell sunk a free throw, Loyola rebounded his missed second attempt. The offense scrambled, but redshirt junior Clayton Custer missed a three at the buzzer after a pass from first-year center Cameron Krutwig with 1.7 seconds left.
Analysis: As has been the case for most of the season, Loyola played better in the second half than it did in the first. The Ramblers forced 11 turnovers in the second period and shot 42.9 percent from the field. However, Loyola came in with a 5-4 record when trailing at halftime and a 13-0 record when leading at the break, meaning it would be more challenging to come back.
Four Ramblers –– Custer, Krutwig, senior guard Ben Richardson and redshirt junior guard Marques Townes –– scored in double-digits, led by Custer’s 23 points. Those four players combined for 58 of Loyola’s 67 points, meaning the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders for the Ramblers. Senior forward Aundre Jackson was Loyola’s fifth-leading scorer with three points.
Bradley shot 48 percent for the game, including 40 percent from behind the three-point line. The Loyola defense struggled in the first half and couldn’t save the game in the second.
Loyola still has a one-game lead in the MVC standings over Bradley and Southern Illinois University, which sit tied for second place. The loss makes the race for the MVC title more interesting, as first place and eighth place are separated by just three games. With seven games left before the conference tournament March 1-4, every game will matter if the Ramblers expect to maintain the top spot.
What’s next? Loyola is scheduled to take on Missouri State University at Gentile Arena Feb. 3.