The Loyola women’s basketball team (15-14, 6-12) is winding down with the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) women’s basketball tournament coming up March 12-15.
The No. 8-seeded Ramblers are scheduled to play No. 9-seeded Indiana State at 4 p.m. March 12. Loyola beat the Sycamores twice during the season, winning on the road by seven points and by 10 at Gentile Arena.
Loyola’s regular season was a rollercoaster. The Ramblers had a historically good start, opening their season 9-0. They were also the first Division I women’s basketball team to be 8-0 on the road this season.
However, Loyola stumbled through its conference schedule. It finished 6-12 and is currently riding a seven-game losing streak heading into Hoops in the Heartland — the MVC women’s basketball tournament.
Loyola head coach Kate Achter said she thinks her squad has been playing some of its best basketball of the season despite the stretch of loses. In 10 of their 14 losses this season, the Ramblers have held a lead or been within a single possession of their opponent in the fourth quarter.
Achter said “success isn’t a straight line” and that the team has been able to improve through the tough loses.
“For us, it’s just about continuing to understand the situations where we’ve made mistakes,” Achter said. “We’ve lost games on possessions when other teams have made great plays to beat us. We’ve lost games where we’ve made mistakes.”
Over the Ramblers’ last 10 games, senior guard Tiara Wallace has averaged a team-high 15.7 points per contest. This includes a pair of 26-point performances, the first coming against the University of Evansville Feb. 8 and the next coming five games later against the University of Northern Iowa March 1.
“Tiara Wallace has been absolutely unbelievable for us,” Achter said. “A part of her game that she’s really struggled with was just being consistent. … I’ve had other players that have really grown over the course of the season, but I couldn’t be more proud of what Tiara’s done for us.”
Indiana State enters the tournament with a 5-25 record — including going 3-15 in conference play. Head coach Vicki Hall said the team’s focus has been working on its offense. The Sycamores had the second-lowest points per game average in the league, scoring 59.8 points per contest.
“I just think it’s important that we play for 40 minutes and value every possession,” Hall said. “That’s what we’ve really been working on in this last month of the season. … And then working on our execution, especially offensively, and being able to make sure we can create opportunities for ourselves to score easy baskets.”
Achter said there are similarities between the Loyola and Indiana State programs. Achter has been guiding Loyola through a rebuild since her arrival and said Hall and the Sycamores have been going through a similar process.
“We have a lot of respect for what Coach Hall is doing down in Terre Haute,” Achter said. “It’s something that we’ve been immersed in for the last three years as a staff. … They don’t stop fighting and I know they’re going to give it everything they got this weekend, as are we.”
Achter and the Ramblers are scheduled to face off against the Sycamores March 12 at 4 p.m. in Moline. The game will open the Hoops in the Heartland tournament.