The Loyola women’s basketball team (15-12, 6-10) lost the University of Northern Iowa 73-70 on senior night at Gentile Arena. Senior guard Tiara Wallace — Loyola’s only senior — scored a game-high 26 points in her final regular season game at Gentile.
After the game, Wallace said it was an emotional game, but she tried to just focus on playing basketball and helping her teammates.
“I tried to put the emotional part to the side,” Wallace said. “I didn’t want it to get the best of me. I just wanted to go out there and play my game. This is the first time that all of my family has come out to see me play, so I was just trying to put on a show for everybody that came out to support me.”
Northern Iowa led 34-27 at halftime, and the Panthers surged after the break to extend their lead to 17 points with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter. Loyola responded by ending the quarter on a 13-0 run to bring the score to 47-43 at the end of the period.
The Ramblers’ strong play continued into the fourth quarter. Loyola went back-and-forth with Northern Iowa throughout the final period. But despite leading by three with 2:59 remaining, the Ramblers were unable to fend off the Panthers. Northern Iowa went on a 7-0 run to take a commanding lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
This is the second straight game Loyola has erased a double-digit, second-half deficit to grab a fourth quarter lead. The Ramblers trailed by 16 points against Drake University Feb. 28, but came back to take a one-point fourth quarter lead.
The Ramblers’ comeback bids fell short against both the Panthers and the Bulldogs, but Loyola head coach Kate Achter spoke highly of her squad’s ability to continue to fight. Achter said the entire team was able to rally behind Wallace.
“I think there’s a certain resiliency that each of them have personally,” Achter said. “But today I think, and this weekend certainly, it was for ‘T.’ ‘T’ means a lot to them. She means a lot to us and our program. But it’s really easy to compete that hard when you love your teammates.”
Wallace’s 26 points against the Panthers tied her career-high, which she set against the University of Evansville Feb. 8.
“In the beginning of the game [against Northern Iowa], I might’ve been forcing a lot of shots,” Wallace said. “After halftime, I was talking to my team and I was telling them that I was forcing and I just had to let it come to me, and it was way better in the second half.”
Loyola junior forward Abby O’Connor notched her sixth double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Junior guard Ellie Rice was the third Rambler to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
After the game, O’Connor spoke about the importance of having Wallace as a teammate. O’Connor said whenever she has a bad game, Wallace is the first to cheer her up and tell her that she’ll be better next time.
“‘T’ has been there for me since the beginning,” O’Connor said. “I am so appreciative of especially this past year we’ve had together as captains, and being able to talk and figure out how exactly we want to lead the team. ‘T’ is such a life-saver.”
Midway through the first quarter, Wallace changed the pair of shoes she wore to start the game. After the game, she said it was a tribute to junior guard Kailyn Strawbridge, who is sitting out this season as a medical redshirt.
“I was actually wearing Straw’s shoes,” Wallace said. “Straw has meant so much to me throughout my career. She hasn’t been able to hit the floor, so I just wanted to give back to her a little bit. The shoes didn’t have grips so I couldn’t play in them, but I got a couple points in them, so I hope that meant something to her.”
Next, Loyola is scheduled to travel to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois University March 5. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN+.