The Loyola women’s basketball team (9-7, 3-2) has settled into a trend of unexpected fourth quarter comebacks this season. Although head coach Kate Achter and the players can’t pin it to a specific cause, some credit their success to a mix of experience, ability to adjust and motivation to close out tough games.
In 10 out of the 16 games the Ramblers have played as of Jan. 20 — six of which were wins — the fourth quarter was the one with most or tied for the most points. In 11 out of 16 games, the team scored more points in the second half than the first.
Nine games saw Loyola break the 20-point mark in the fourth quarter, and two games broke 30 points or more. The Ramblers scored 34 points in the final quarter against DePaul University Dec. 20 and 30 against Drake University Jan. 11.
In five games, the Ramblers scored more points in the fourth quarter than the entire first half combined. In the case of Drake and DePaul, the fourth quarter was ahead of the first half by at least six points. Against Bowling Green University, University of Illinois at Chicago and Detroit Mercy University, the margin was three points or less.
Achter said she doesn’t know how the team consistently gets these fourth quarter outbursts, because she’d prefer them to have their best moment earlier in the game.
“If I could change it, I’d put it up in the first quarter,” Achter said.
Achter also said the team has practice with making winning plays and they’re experienced in finishing out basketball games. She said it’s an odd thing for their young group to be confident in, but they are strong in their ability to adjust.
“We kind of wait it out to see where adjustments are made at halftime,” Achter said. “Then we settle into the fourth quarter for the last 10 minutes.”
Achter said their late game success isn’t just credited to a few players, but it’s the whole team that keeps the energy alive. However, the starting lineup makes a difference.
“I think … that group of starters really settles in by that point,” Achter said. “I mean it only takes them thirty minutes but they find their grooves for whatever reason.”
These differences didn’t kick in until late November and December, but the trend has been consistent ever since. First-year forward Allison Day said she thinks their fourth quarter comebacks come off the momentum of their third quarter play. Sophomore guard Abby O’Connor said the importance of those last few minutes could be what drives them to play harder.
“I wouldn’t say we plan it,” O’Connor said. “Fourth quarters are big, so it’s good it’s our best quarter. A lot of times, we come out a little flat, so a lot of times we need to have a good fourth quarter.”
Loyola is currently tied for third place in the Missouri Valley Conference, six spots ahead of their highest finish under Achter and two places ahead of their highest finish since they joined the conference in the 2013-14 season.
The Ramblers are set to take on Missouri State University Jan. 25 in Springfield, Missouri. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on ESPN+.