The Loyola men’s basketball team (1-1) was defeated by Furman University 60-58 Friday night in nerve-racking fashion in front of sold-out crowd at Gentile Arena. The loss snapped an eight-game home winning streak for the Ramblers and was the team’s first non-conference home defeat since 2015.
Redshirt senior guard Clayton Custer led the way in scoring for the Ramblers with 19 points and sophomore guard Lucas Williamson recorded a double-double, contributing 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The first half saw the Ramblers get off to a slow start, as they shot 15 percent from the field and trailed the Paladins 23-8 with 7:08 remaining in the first half. Their shots began to fall as the half concluded however, as Custer anchored a 20-0 run to take the lead back 28-23 with 1:16 left in the first half. Loyola took a 28-27 lead into halftime.
“The entire beginning of the first half, we weren’t playing offense the way we like to play,” Custer said. “I was lucky enough to find some open shots there during that stretch and was lucky to knock them down.”
Loyola continued to extend its lead as the second half began, notching a 39-29 lead with 15:48 remaining before Furman went on a 10-2 run led by forward Matt Rafferty, a senior from western suburb Hinsdale who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
“Rafferty really killed us down low,” Custer said. “I think he was the best player on the court tonight.”
This led to a back-and-forth in the final minutes as Rafferty nailed two free throws to take a 58-56 lead with 31 seconds remaining. The Ramblers responded instantly as Custer finished a right-handed drive with a lay-in off the glass.
The Paladins then took over possession with 23 seconds left before forward Clay Mounce slammed in a dunk over redshirt sophomore Aher Uguak off a backdoor cut to the basket with 1.7 seconds left. Off the inbounds pass, Custer saw his half-court heave bounce off the rim and Furman secured the victory 60-58 in stunning fashion.
Furman, a member of the Southern Conference which includes former NCAA tournament teams Eastern Tennessee State University (ETSU) and University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is coming off a season in which it finished 23-10 but failed to qualify for postseason play. The team made it to the conference tournament semi-finals before losing to eventual runners-up ETSU 63-52.
“This win means the world to this program,” Furman guard Jordan Lyons said. “We came in here with the belief that we could win and to see our guys just fighting and fighting for 40 minutes and it’s just unbelievable.”
Loyola head coach Porter Moser gave credit to Furman for coming into Gentile Arena and defeating the Ramblers in such a competitive matchup.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Furman,” Moser said. “They played hard, they made some big shots down the stretch, they were really well coached and played really hard and you’ve gotta tip your hats to Furman’s effort.”
The game was the first sellout at Gentile Arena since last season’s regular season finale against Illinois State University Feb. 24, with 4,963 fans in attendance.
The Ramblers’ season is scheduled to continue Nov. 14 when they host Niagara University at Gentile Arena.