The Loyola women’s basketball team (9-3, 0-1) lost an overtime nail-bitter against No. 21-ranked Missouri State University 74-72 to kick off Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play at Gentile Arena Friday night. Junior forward Abby O’Connor posted a double-double for Loyola with 17 points and 11 rebounds — her third double-double of the season.
Missouri State’s Jasmine Franklin scored a layup at the buzzer in overtime to give the Lady Bears the victory.
Following the Ramblers’ last loss to Western Michigan University, Loyola head coach Kate Achter said she was unhappy with the team’s preparation and effort. Coming into the game against Missouri State, Achter challenged her players to rise to the occasion.
“I told them if they stepped on the floor tonight and didn’t think that we belong at the top of the MVC, or competing for the top of the MVC, then don’t come out of the locker room,” Achter said following the loss.
The Ramblers showed their ability to compete, never trailing by more than eight against the Lady Bears who were picked to finish second out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll. Missouri State comes in at No. 2 according to Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) — a metric that ranks teams based on wins, loses and strength of schedule.
Loyola entered the game ranked No. 121, according to the RPI, and was picked to finish seventh in the MVC.
Missouri State took a 41-35 lead into halftime, but Loyola kept within striking distance for the entirety of the second half. Still trailing by six points entering the fourth quarter, the Ramblers held Missouri State to just nine — tied for their lowest scoring output in a quarter this season — to force overtime.
In overtime, Loyola managed to keep pace with the Lady Bears until Franklin’s shot at the end.
Loyola had five players score in double figures. O’Connor was joined by fellow juniors guard Ellie Rice and forward Kat Nolan with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Senior guard Tiara Wallace and sophomore guard Janae Gonzales each scored 11 apiece.
The Lady Bears controlled the boards against the Ramblers. This was just the third time all season Loyola had been outrebounded as Missouri State grabbed 39 boards to Loyola’s 32. The Lady Bears relayed that rebounding advantage to 14 second-chance points while Loyola had four.
Missouri State was led by Alexa Willard who scored 21 points. Willard scored 11 of those points in the span of less than two minutes early in the second quarter.
“Coming in, we knew she’d be a big player for them,” O’Connor said. “We lost her in the beginning a little bit in transition and let her get going. So, especially at halftime, just keying in on that, don’t let her get anything easy in transition. And Ellie [Rice] did a really good job forcing her to take some tough shots.”
This is the second time Loyola has gone down to the wire with a ranked team this season. The Ramblers lost to then-No. 16 DePaul University 83-76 Dec. 20.
Achter said the team improved from the game against the Lady Bears despite not getting the outcome they wanted.
“We lost this game, but we got better,” Achter said. “That’s the whole point. If you can’t win a game, you’ve still got to find a way to get better. There’s no ‘bounce back.’ We’re going to take what we didn’t do very well … and certainly see how we can do that better against Southern Illinois.”
Next, Loyola welcomes Southern Illinois University to Gentile Arena Jan. 5. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. and the game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN3.