The Loyola men’s basketball team (12-2, 3-0) managed to claw its way back into the competition by taking down Valparaiso University 81-74 in double overtime in Gentile Arena Jan. 11.
This win extended Loyola’s at-home winning streak to 30 games and grew its edge in the series over Valparaiso to 44-16 since the series first began in 1922. The Ramblers are now off to their best start through 14 contests since the 1965-1966 season, when they went 13-1.
The Jan. 11 game marked the second overtime victory for the Ramblers in a row, after they defeated Bradley University 78-71 in overtime just three days earlier on Jan. 8.
“Regardless of how much of a veteran team you have, it’s still hard to play three games within five days,” Valentine said on the overtime win. “Mix that in with playing an overtime game [on Jan. 8], it’s tough, but I got to give our guys a lot of credit — their resiliency, they’re winners.”
The first half was off to a slow start, with Valparaiso taking a small 5-2 lead five minutes into the game. The Beacons were able to pick up the pace to take a double-digit lead over the Ramblers 25-13 with six minutes left to the half.
Loyola started to pick up offensively in response, going on a 7-0 scoring run to bring the score to 25-20 favoring Valparaiso with 4:49 left on the clock. Graduate guard Lucas Williamson and redshirt junior guard Braden Norris made back-to-back three-point jumpers to assist in the run.
The offensive effort proved not enough for Loyola, as the team only scored another two points in the half. Valparaiso entered the locker room holding a 30-22 edge over the Ramblers, who had their lowest-scoring first half of the season.
Loyola amped up their defense in the second half, forcing the Beacons to take longer possessions, leading to a shot clock violation with 10:56 left in the game. The defensive effort breathed life into the Ramblers’ offense, going on a 20-13 run to put them into overtime 55-55.
A deep three-pointer from Norris tied up overtime 66-66 with 24.2 seconds left on the clock. An attempted comeback from Valparaiso failed to make it into the basket, sending the two teams into double overtime for the first time in Loyola’s 2021-2022 season.
Norris exploded in double overtime, sinking three three-point jumpers at crucial points in the period to take the victory for Loyola 81-74. Norris ended the game leading the Ramblers with 23 points while pitching in four assists.
“In our coaching staff, we say he’s a certified dog,” Valentine said of Norris’ performance. “He deserves to have success because of how hard he works, but at the end of the day the most important thing to [him] is winning… and that’s what our culture is about.”
Junior guard Marquise Kennedy was second in scoring with 14 points, including a dunk that brought the noise back to Gentile with 11:17 left in the second half. Valentine spoke to his impact on the game, saying Kennedy is setting a new standard.
“I asked the [first-years] if they’d ever seen the look that Marquise had in his eye tonight,” Valentine said. “They said no, and I said ‘Marquise, that’s your standard’… When he’s that intense, he wants to win that bad, he’s one of the best players in our league.”
The Beacons entered the game ranked first in the MVC in steals, averaging 7.4 per game. However, they only managed to take five in all four periods, while Loyola took ten.
Valparaiso also entered the matchup ranked second in the MVC in assists behind Loyola, which averages 17.2 per game, with an average of 14.4, a statistic that rang true during the Jan. 11 game. The Ramblers remained dominant in the category, logging 15 assists while Valparaiso had just nine.
Despite the victory, there are still questions of how the Ramblers will perform when they compete outside of Gentile Arena as Loyola took both of its last wins in overtime. Norris said a few things need to be cleaned up before the team hits the road.
“For us, it always starts defensively,” Norris said. “Offensively, I think in the first half our pace just needed to be better, just continue to share it, get it downhill, and play the way that we want to play.”
The Ramblers are slated to face Indiana State University in Terre Haute Jan. 15. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.