After a blowout win in the first game against Drake University Feb. 13, the Loyola men’s basketball team (18-4, 13-2) suffered defeat in the last few seconds of an intense neck-and-neck second game of the two-game series, falling 51-50 in overtime Feb. 14. This is the first time the Ramblers have lost the second game of a back-to-back series this season.
Coming into the second game of the series, the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ranked Loyola and Drake No. 10 and No. 30, respectively, out of 347 Division I teams. Loyola was also ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 poll Feb. 8, while Drake had checked in at No. 25 Feb. 1 before dropping out of the rankings the following week.
Despite the loss, Loyola remained at the No. 22 spot in the AP Top 25 Feb. 15 while Drake remained unranked.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser said he knew this second game would be a “dog fight” between Loyola and Drake. He said winning a second game on the road against a Quad 1 team like the Bulldogs is a challenge, but his team had chances to win it Feb. 14 and didn’t deliver. A Quad 1 team is the highest position in an NCAA ranking system that divides teams into four “quadrants” to determine their strength.
“We had our opportunities, no excuses,” Moser said. “We definitely had our opportunities and we didn’t get it done.”
Loyola senior center Cameron Krutwig recorded a double-double in the Feb. 14 game, tallying 11 points and 14 rebounds. Two other Ramblers notched double-digit points in the matchup — redshirt senior forward Aher Uguak and senior guard Lucas Williamson each scored 10 points.
Drake came out to put the first points on the board of what would become a neck-and-neck half. The Bulldogs were able to make it 6-0 by 16:51 — holding the Ramblers from scoring until Williamson’s three-point shot at 16:20.
Those three points kicked off an 8-0 run for Loyola, but this streak didn’t put the Ramblers up by enough to keep the lead. The remainder of the half was marked by nearly three total minutes of a tied score, with neither team’s leads growing to more than two points until Uguak sank a three-pointer with 7:05 remaining to give Loyola a five-point lead.
This shot kicked off another Loyola scoring run, but the Bulldogs responded with their own, leaving the score at a tight 25-22 for the Ramblers at the half.
Neither team was shooting extraordinarily well in the first half — Loyola managed only 40.7 percent from the field while holding Drake to only 30.0 percent. Although both teams attempted nine three-point shots, Loyola sank just three, and Drake missed all nine.
The second half started off close, with the first 10 minutes filled with multiple scoreless periods. However, Loyola managed to break away with a 9-0 scoring run at 11:03, giving the Ramblers a 10-point lead — the largest of either team all game.
Drake quickly responded with its own 10-0 run, and a tight last four minutes led to an only two-point lead for the Ramblers with under three minutes left in the game. With 1:23 remaining, Drake junior guard Roman Penn sunk a layup to tie the game, forcing overtime.
In the first two periods, Loyola suffered a total of 15 turnovers. The Ramblers tallied four more in overtime to bring its game total to 19. Moser said having this many turnovers was “uncharacteristic” for his team.
“I felt like both of us were taking each other out of so many things, it was so physical, it was hard to get points on the stretch both ways,” Moser said about the matchup between Loyola and Drake. “But we certainly had our opportunities.”
In what would become a nail-biter overtime period, Drake took the early lead with a shot from Penn putting the Bulldogs up by two. Loyola was only able to grab the lead momentarily — for a total of 18 seconds — with three points from sophomore guard Marquise Kennedy. This was the last time the Ramblers would hold the lead.
With two free-throws from redshirt sophomore guard Braden Norris to keep Loyola in the game, the score froze at 51-50 for the Bulldogs with 1:53 remaining. Through a flurry of timeouts and missed shots in the final minute, Loyola grasped for the lead but couldn’t pull through.
The Bulldogs shot 3-for-5 from the field during overtime, whereas Loyola only went 1-for-7.
Moser said the Ramblers will have to learn from this game and put it behind them before they host Valparaiso University later this week. However, he said he was happy with the team’s win the first night even if the second night didn’t end in the same result.
“We’ll put it in the bank [and] we’ll reflect,” Moser said. “We got a Quad 1 road win out of this weekend, [but] disappointed we didn’t get a second one.”
The Ramblers are slated to play their next match against Valparaiso at Gentile Arena Feb. 17. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago.