A poor shooting performance doomed the No. 8-seeded Loyola men’s basketball team in a 65-58 loss to No. 12-seeded Oregon State University March 27 in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Coming off an upset of No. 1-seeded University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the second round, the Ramblers shot 33.3 percent from the field as a team, including 21.7 percent from three-point territory in the season-ending loss to the Beavers.
“We got great looks,” Loyola senior center Cameron Krutwig said. “Not to blame anything — you never want to miss — but it just wasn’t falling, it wasn’t our night. They made some big shots and we kind of didn’t, myself included. … This game will kind of fade off and the memories that we made and the celebrations and everything, those will remain.”
Krutwig finished with 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting and 10 rebounds to lead Loyola. Redshirt sophomore guard Braden Norris scored 10 points for the Ramblers and dished out six assists. Loyola senior guard Lucas Williamson added 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Oregon State shot 41.2 percent overall and 38.5 percent from downtown as it advanced to the Elite Eight. The Beavers were led by senior guard Ethan Thompson, who finished with 22 points on 6-for-13 shooting.
Loyola jumped out to an early 9-3 lead through the first nearly 10 minutes of the game, but Thompson said the Beavers just tried to stay calm and not panic early.
“That’s one thing that we talked about as a team going into the game — into all our past games, really — just staying calm,” Thompson said. “The main focus is just having fun with each other, believing in each other. I just embodied that today and it calmed my nerves.”
The Ramblers dug themselves into a hole in the first half, shooting just 17.4 percent from the field and connecting on only one of their 11 three-point attempts. Krutwig was 3-for-5 from the field in the first 20 minutes, while the rest of the team was a combined 1-for-18.
Despite the offensive struggles, Loyola led for the majority of the half, but the Beavers ended the half on an 11-0 run over the final 4:52 to take a 24-16 lead into the break.
“We’re just playing with a lot of confidence on both ends,” Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle said. “We’re a pretty darn good defensive team and we showed that. … I think early on, we were a little caught in the moment, we weren’t as sharp offensively plus [Loyola’s] really good defensively.”
The Beavers stretched their lead to double digits early in the second half, up 30-20 with 16:46 left to play. Oregon State led for the entirety of the second half.
With 3:30 left to play, Loyola got within three points of the Beavers following a three-pointer by Norris and an acrobatic alley-oop layup by redshirt senior forward Aher Uguak.
But the Ramblers weren’t able to complete the comeback, falling to Oregon State 65-58.
“I thought we played our tails off,” Moser said. “I thought we did a lot of things [well], we didn’t shoot the ball well. … I thought we had some good looks, and we just didn’t shoot the three well.”
Moser mentioned the Beavers’ length as being one of the biggest challenges for Loyola offensively. Four of Oregon States’ five starters were 6-foot-5 or taller, while only two of Loyola’s starters fit that description.
While the Ramblers struggled to knock down shots, they took care of the ball. Loyola committed eight turnovers, while Oregon State had 10. But the Beavers converted Loyola’s turnovers into 11 points whereas the Ramblers only scored one point following an Oregon State turnover.
Several Ramblers also struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. Uguak fouled out near the end of the game, and Williamson and sophomore guard Marquise Kennedy each finished with four fouls. As a team, Loyola committed 20 fouls. This was the third time this season the Ramblers committed 20 or more fouls and they lost all three games.
After the game, Moser said it was a “hard scene” in the locker room.
“I told them take all the towels off their head, look up, raise your head,” Moser said.
While Moser was consoling his players on the abrupt end of the season, Tinkle was reaffirming what he said his team already knew coming into the game.
“There’s no doubt in our guys’ minds, they really believe that this is their time,” Tinkle said. “It’s what we said before we left the locker room, that we’re not going to get rattled, this is our time, it’s meant to be, let’s go play ball.”
With the win, the Beavers advanced to the Elite Eight and are set to face the winner of No. 2-seeded University of Houston and No. 11-seeded Syracuse University March 29.