The Loyola men’s basketball team (19-12, 12-6) secured its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season title with an 81-68 victory over Bradley University at a sold-out Gentile Arena Saturday night. This is the first time Loyola has won back-to-back conference championships in program history.
The Ramblers share the top spot with Drake University, but will be the No. 1 seed at the MVC Tournament for the second straight year because they swept their two regular season matchups with the Bulldogs. Drake, which was picked to finish ninth in the MVC preseason poll, will be the No. 2 seed.
“[This season’s] been a rollercoaster ride,” Loyola redshirt senior guard Clayton Custer said after the game. “We’ve gone through some ups and some downs, just with the added pressure this year and stuff. It feels really good to come out on top and win a second [title].”
Bradley, which beat Loyola in Peoria Feb. 13, will be the No. 5 seed at Arch Madness. The Braves finish the regular season 17-14 overall and a 9-9 conference record — despite starting MVC play 0-5.
Loyola redshirt senior guard Marques Townes led the way with 26 points, while sophomore center Cameron Krutwig added 16 points, five rebounds and six assists. Custer added 15 points and sophomore guard Lucas Williamson contributed 10 points, six rebounds and four steals.
The Ramblers rode a hot hand throughout the game, going 27-for-46 from the field for a 58.7 percent clip. They also went 20-for-23 from the free-throw line — their highest mark from the charity stripe this season.
It was senior day at Gentile Arena, and Custer and Townes were honored before the game. Afterward, Loyola head coach Porter Moser said the two seniors played essential roles in getting the Ramblers their second straight title.
“We lost three big pieces last year and then all of a sudden, Lucas goes down [with a broken hand],” Moser said. “And for these two seniors to keep this thing going … it just shows the character of the team to fight through the pressure all year long to do it again. It’s so hard to repeat.”
Next on the schedule is the MVC Tournament — better known as Arch Madness — in St. Louis March 7-10. Loyola is scheduled to open the tournament March 8 at 12 p.m. against the winner of the No. 8 seed Indiana State University vs. No. 9 seed Valparaiso University game.