What went down: No. 1 seed Loyola (27-5, 15-3) took on No. 5 seed Bradley in the Arch Madness semifinals Saturday afternoon at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Ramblers defeated the Braves 62-54 to advance to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament championship for the first time in program history.
How it happened: The Ramblers used a hot first half on offense, shooting at a 48.3 percent clip to take a 36-25 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Bradley put the pressure back on the Ramblers, cutting the Loyola lead to 54-53 with 6:42 remaining. From there, the Ramblers turned up their defense, holding the Braves to only one more point the rest of the way.
The Loyola offense went stagnant during the second half, but redshirt junior guard Marques Townes’ three-pointer from the right corner pushed the Loyola lead to 59-54 with 1:25 left to seal the victory.
Analysis: Townes led the way for Loyola with 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half. His scoring was huge as senior forwards Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson, who each led Loyola with eight points in the first half, did not score in the second half.
After scoring two points against the University of Northern Iowa March 2, redshirt junior guard and MVC Player of the Year Clayton Custer scored 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the victory. Jackson added nine points while Ingram had eight points and eight rebounds.
Senior Donte Thomas, sophomore Nate Kennell and junior Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye led the Braves in scoring with 12 points each.
Moser’s thoughts: In the postgame press conference, head coach Porter Moser said he thought his players’ ability to learn from mistakes was critical to the victory.
“I love our guys’ mentality,” Moser said. “They just refused to quit … You look at how many grind-out games we’ve had, especially the last several weeks, and we just find ways to win.”
What’s next? Loyola is scheduled to play the winner of the No. 2 seed Southern Illinois University vs. No. 3 Illinois State University match up in the Arch Madness championship game March 4 at 1 p.m.