In the first quarterfinal game of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) men’s basketball tournament, No. 1 seed Loyola (20-12, 12-6) cruised past No. 9 seed Valparaiso University 67-54 to advance to the semifinal round for the second straight year.
Loyola sophomore center Cameron Krutwig led the team with 18 points and six rebounds. Redshirt senior guard and MVC Player of the Year Marques Townes added 15 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Lucas Williamson added 10 points.
The Ramblers took control from the beginning, going on a 7-0 run to start the game. They went 16-for-25 from the field in the first half and dished out 11 assists on those 16 made field goals. The success continued in the second half, as Loyola shot 40.7 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes to seal the victory.
Loyola also continued to succeed on the defensive end, forcing 10 Valparaiso turnovers and scoring 14 points off those miscues. This continues a trend of defensive success for the Ramblers at Arch Madness, as they’ve held opponents to under 55 points their last four games in St. Louis — a tournament first.
“I was so excited about how we started defensively,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser said after the game. “I thought that dictated everything. I thought it dictated our confidence in offense. I thought our bench came in, and there wasn’t any letdown on either end … I thought they did a great job defensively and continuing to do it.”
Although Valparaiso outscored Loyola 36-27 in the second half, the Crusaders dug themselves in an early hole by shooting just 8-for-31 in the first half — a 25.8 percent clip. First-year guard Daniel Sackey was the only Crusader in double figures, putting up 11 points off the bench.
Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich said he thought the game was decided at halftime given how poorly his team shot, but also because Loyola had yet to play a game while the Crusaders played 18 hours prior to their matchup with the Ramblers.
“I think the story of the game was just the first half,” Lottich said. “[Loyola] really jumped on us. They looked like a team that was pretty motivated and a little rested.”
The victory means Loyola will appear in the Arch Madness semifinal for the third time since joining the MVC in 2013. The Ramblers are scheduled to take on No. 5 seed Bradley University March 9 at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.