Last year, then-No. 1 seed Loyola took on then-No. 5 seed Bradley University in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament semifinal. The Ramblers defeated the Braves 62-54 to advance to the championship and, eventually, win the tournament.
One year later, they’re preparing for a rematch.
The No. 1 seed Ramblers and the No. 5 seed Braves are set to face off Saturday afternoon at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. This is the third time they’ll face off this season after splitting the season series.
In the first matchup Feb. 13 in Peoria, the Ramblers had the advantage at halftime, but Bradley came back to win 61-54 behind 20 points from senior guard Darrell Brown.
The second time the two teams met up was the last game of the regular season March 2. Four Ramblers scored in the double digits in Loyola’s 81-68 victory at Gentile Arena, headlined by redshirt senior guard Marques Townes’ game-high 26 points.
Both teams took different paths to victory in the Arch Madness quarterfinals, though.
The Ramblers blew out No. 9 seed Valparaiso University 67-54, which continued a trend of defensive success for the Ramblers at Arch Madness. They’ve held opponents to under 55 points their last four games in St. Louis — something that has never happened before.
While Loyola didn’t know who it was playing until later, Krutwig said playing the first game of the day benefitted the Ramblers in more ways than one.
“It just gives you a huge advantage with rest and things like that,” Krutwig said. “Also now that our game’s over, we can focus on the next one and kind of get scouting and things like that.”
Bradley struggled past No. 4 seed Missouri State University, but held on for a 61-58 win. The Braves held junior guard Tulio Da Silva — the MVC Newcomer of the Year — to only three points, allowing Brown to capitalize on his offensive success and score 20 points for Bradley.
It’ll be a close matchup for the Ramblers and Braves as both teams have had good ends to their seasons. Bradley head coach Brian Wardle said having just played each other a week prior works to the Braves benefit.
“Obviously, [Loyola] performed well,” Wardle said. “We’ve got to be more physical, I think. We just played them a week ago, so that’s the nice part is it’s short prep. It’s a mental prep for our group and for them. You know, we’ve got to do a better.”
A win for Loyola wouldn’t just mean a ticket to the championship game March 9, but would also mean its fourth straight win for the season — something the Ramblers have been unable to accomplish this season. They’ve had two separate three-game win streaks and are in the midst of their third, meaning they have another chance to get that elusive fourth consecutive victory.
Despite the idea of breaking a win streak looming over the team. Loyola head coach Porter Moser said a statistic like that is “unimportant.” Townes followed Moser saying it’s not the team’s focus.
“Our game is just one-game-at-a-time mentality,” Townes said. “It is not, let’s win four games in a row, and it would be good. No, it’s one game at a time.”
The winner of Loyola vs. Bradley will go onto the MVC Tournament championship game March 10 at 1 p.m. against the winner of the other semifinal matchup of No. 2 seed Drake University and No. 6 seed University of Northern Iowa.