The Loyola men’s basketball team (20-5, 11-3) took down Valparaiso University on the road 71-69 to sweep the regular season series 2-0. The win gives Loyola its fifth consecutive season with twenty or more wins for the first time in program history.
This is also the fifth straight season the Ramblers have logged more than 10 victories in conference play. The team is now 15-0 in the 2021-2022 season when scoring 70 or more points in a game.
“I’ve got to give [Valparaiso] so much credit,” Loyola head coach Drew Valentine said after the win. “Our group, they’re just as resilient as they come, I mean we’ve played so many of these close games… At the end of the day, you’ve got to be up one point.”
With the Feb. 16 win, Valentine became the first head coach to lead the team to 20 wins in their first year on the job in over 70 years. The last coach to do so was Tom Haggerty, who captured 23 victories with the Ramblers during the 1945-1946 season.
Loyola won the tip-off, but Valparaiso snagged an early lead and held onto it for almost all of the first period. The Ramblers took their only lead of the half with six minutes left on the clock after a layup from senior forward Chris Knight brought the score to 24-23.
The Beacons’ bench contributed significantly during the first half, scoring 13 of the team’s 36 points. Meanwhile, Loyola’s bench broke its typical trend of the season and dropped only two points, both of which came from junior forward Tom Welch.
Redshirt junior Braden Norris hit a second chance three-point jumper with six seconds left in the period, but it wasn’t enough to avoid sending the Ramblers to the locker room down against Valparaiso for the second time this season.
Valparaiso also had more power coming from beyond the arc, hitting 50% of its three-point attempts. Loyola shot just 25% in three-pointers but scored 11 points off turnovers compared to just two coming from the Beacons.
Loyola came up closer to Valparaiso in the second half with back-to-back baskets from Knight, putting the Ramblers within one point at 45-44 with sixteen minutes left. From that point on, the two teams battled for the lead, with the largest lead for the rest of the game being just three points.
The score tied four times in the last ten minutes of the game, but Loyola came out victorious thanks to a layup from Knight that put the Ramblers on top for good. Knight led Loyola with a season-high 20 points, along with seven rebounds.
“That was almost like vintage,” Valentine said about Knight’s performance. “That’s how he played at Dartmouth … He’s been great, he’s really been coming along, you know, continuing to make multiple efforts … Our team embraces him, we love him.”
The Ramblers are set to return home Feb. 19 to face off against Drake University, the No. 1 pick in the MVC Preseason Poll who currently sits at fourth in the conference standings. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.