Men's Basketball

This Week in Loyola History: The Ramblers’ Cinderella Run Starts

Loyola School of CommunicationLoyola celebrated after Clayton Custer’s last second shot to beat the University of Tennessee. Both the Ramblers and Nevada have won both their tournament games on last second shots or in overtime.

The NCAA canceled March Madness and all other winter and spring championships March 12. Since then, fans — especially basketball enthusiasts — have taken to social media to share some of the greatest moments in the tournament’s storied history. 

Donte Ingram’s game-winning shot for Loyola in the round of 64 against the University of Miami is one of the many highlight videos circulating the internet.

Loyola’s victory over the Hurricanes, and the University of Tennessee in the next round, happened about two years ago. Loyola went on to become just the fourth 11-seed to reach the Final Four. Here’s a summary of the two nail-biting games that kicked off one of the greatest Cinderella stories in NCAA Tournament history.

Miami

In its first NCAA Tournament game since 1985, No. 11 seed Loyola (29-5, 15-3) upset No. 6 seed University of Miami (Fla.) 64-62 March 15, 2018 on senior forward Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beating three-pointer in front of a crowd of more than 15,800 fans. The crowd consisted of mostly Loyola fans while some Miami fans sat behind the Hurricanes’ bench.

The game was tied 28-28 at halftime and Loyola came out sluggish to start the half. The Ramblers made one of their first six shots to open the half as Miami took a 39-32 lead with 15:49 left in the game. Loyola came back to make it a 44-40 Miami lead and the game went back-and-forth from there.

Three plays helped seal the victory for Loyola. The first was when redshirt junior guard Clayton Custer hit a corner three-pointer to tie the game 60-60 with one minute left. Custer said the team worked on that play all season and gave credit to head coach Porter Moser for drawing it up.

“That’s another example of Ben [Richardson] knowing where I’m going to be before anybody else knows where I’m going to be … we work on situations like that in the last four minutes every day in practice,” Custer said after the game. “We’ve worked on that action 100 times. We felt comfortable running it and we executed it perfectly.”

The second play that helped Loyola win was first-year guard Lucas Williamson forcing a Hurricane turnover with 26 seconds left. Williamson described the play as one in which he read who the ball would go to and followed the ball to force the turnover off Miami guard Lonnie Walker IV’s leg.

“I knew he was going to swipe through [because] as an offensive player, you’re supposed to swipe through and dribble up the court so you don’t get fouled,” Williamson said. “I kind of just guessed where the ball would be and luckily I hit it, it bounced off his leg and forced a turnover.”

The final play was Ingram’s buzzer-beating three-pointer. After Loyola missed two layups, Miami got the ball and Walker was fouled by redshirt junior guard Marques Townes with nine seconds left. Walker missed the free throw and Richardson got the rebound. Townes took the ball and passed it to Ingram from deep three-point territory to seal the victory.

Lukas Keapproth | Loyola University Chicago Loyola’s Men’s Basketball team celebrates after an NCAA win against the University of Tennessee in a second round upset at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX., Saturday, March 17.

In the postgame press conference, Ingram said the magnitude of the moment hadn’t set in yet, but he said he’d been dreaming of hitting a buzzer-beating shot in March Madness since he was young.

“As a kid, this is what you grow up seeing, hoping that you can be in that moment,” Ingram said. “For me to be in this position with these guys, with this coaching staff, I wouldn’t want it any other way and I’m just blessed to hit that shot and I’m happy that we can get on and advance to [playing against No. 3 seed University of] Tennessee.”

Students back at Loyola’s campus watched the game at viewing parties in the Damen Student Center, Schreiber Center and other venues around campus. They took to social media to showcase their reactions.

Tennessee

In a physical game, No. 11 seed Loyola defeated No. 3 seed University of Tennessee 63-62 March 17, 2018 to advance to its first Sweet Sixteen since 1985 after Custer nailed a jumper with 3.5 seconds left to win the game.

“Coach put me in a position to make a play at the end, and I’m very appreciative of that,” Custer said. “I mean, the only thing I can say is glory to God for that one.”

It was a back-and-forth game and Loyola took a 29-25 lead into halftime. The Ramblers went in 20-0 when leading at the break. Although Tennessee outscored Loyola 37-34 in the second half, Loyola out-rebounded the Volunteers and drew 10 fouls after halftime.

Senior guard Ben Richardson, Custer’s life-long best friend, said he had a feeling Custer would make the shot because they had both practiced it since they were kids.

“It’s fitting that he hits a big shot going one-two-pull-up like we’ve been doing in the gym for our whole lives working on that shot,” Richardson said. “I’m so happy for him in this moment. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Senior forward Aundre Jackson added 16 points in the effort on 5-for-7 shooting and 6-for-6 shooting from the free-throw line.

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