In its last non-conference game of the season, the Loyola men’s basketball team (8-5) took Davidson University down to the wire before ultimately falling to the Wildcats at Gentile Arena Sunday afternoon.
Davidson came out on top 59-56 after Loyola redshirt junior guard Tate Hall missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with four seconds remaining in the contest. Loyola, which had won five straight games, led 25-23 at halftime and had a 42-34 lead with 12:37 left in the second half. But Davidson heated up and tied the game 42-42 with 8:56 remaining.
Both teams traded shots, but Davidson senior guard Jon Axel Gundmundsson’s three-pointer with 2:10 to play put the Wildcats on top for good.
The Ramblers played the last 26 minutes of the game without junior guard Lucas Williamson, who suffered an ankle injury with 6:10 left in the first half. After the game, Loyola head coach Porter Moser said he’d know more on Williamson’s status in the next few days.
Moser also acknowledged how much the Ramblers missed Williamson down the stretch. Loyola shot just 4-for-15 from three-point territory and were out-shot 25-19 in the second half. Williamson went into the game shooting 22-for-58 from downtown on the season and is regarded as the team’s best defensive player.
“If Lucas could go, he would’ve gone,” Moser said. “He just couldn’t go, and it obviously hurt us. He’s our best defender, and he’s been our hottest shooter. Not having him … really hurt.”
Davidson entered the day ranked 99th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool — a metric which helps determine which teams could receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament — while Loyola was No. 142. The Wildcats were picked second out of 14 teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference and received eight first-place votes. They also received 34 votes in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 poll.
First-year guard Hyunjung Lee led Davidson with 19 points off the bench. Moser said Lee and junior guard Kellan Grady were key to the Wildcats’ victory.
“I thought Lee was a definite key to the game,” Moser said. “We even talked about him in shootaround today. … I thought Grady and Lee were the difference.”
First-year guard Marquise Kennedy led the Ramblers with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 2-for-4 from three-point territory. Kennedy and Hall, who finished with 11 points, were the only Ramblers to score from outside the arc. In his first game since recording what’s believed to be the first triple-double in program history, junior center Cameron Krutwig was held to eight points while grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
In the postgame press conference, Kennedy said he couldn’t pinpoint one specific play as a turning point. Instead, he said there were smaller errors that built up and allowed Davidson to pull away.
“[Hall] had a very good look at the end of the game to tie it up, but that wasn’t the deciding factor in the game,” Kennedy said. “Turnovers, miscommunication, missed free throws. Little stuff added up to why we didn’t come out victorious.”
The Ramblers now turn their attention to Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play, which is set to begin Dec. 30 at Valparaiso University. The Ramblers were picked to finish fourth out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll, and Moser said his team has to be prepared to play tough games like this the rest of the way.
“Looking at the league … top to bottom, every single night is going to be a grind like [tonight’s game],” Moser said. “It’s going to be possession by possession. … 78% of The Valley games are decided by six [points] or less. It’s going to be like that. You’ve got to be strong mentally, strong physically and play possession by possession in The Valley.”
Tip-off between Loyola and Valparaiso is set for 7 p.m. in Valparaiso, Indiana Dec. 30. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.