Arch Madness

Defeated by Defense: Loyola’s Defensive End Suffocates Panthers, Sends Ramblers to MVC Championship

The Loyola men’s basketball team came to Enterprise Center March 5 and demonstrated the high quality of defense that gave it the No. 1 scoring defense in the country during the 2020-2021 season. Even though the second half saw a slower offensive performance from the Ramblers, they were able to create a substantial lead over the University of Northern Iowa in the first half to finish with a 66-43 victory. 

The Ramblers will advance to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship for the second consecutive year and for the third time in five years.

Three Loyola players tallied double digits in the matchup with junior guard Braden Norris leading with 19. Junior guard Marquise Kennedy tallied 13 followed by senior forward Ryan Schwieger with 12. 

After senior forward Chris Knight won the tip-off, graduate guard Lucas Williamson was quick to put the first two points on the board. Loyola was also able to force a turnover from AJ Green in UNI’s first possession.

The Ramblers held the Panthers scoreless for three minutes until Noah Carter dunked it in to tie the game at two. Loyola would then take the lead and run with it through the end of the half.

In the first half, Loyola proved why its defense was ranked No. 1 scoring defense in the 2020-2021 season. The Ramblers held UNI to zero three-pointers until 3:39 where Trae Berhow finally put one in for the Panthers.

Schwieger shot three to put the Ramblers up by 10 points with 11:16 left to play. From there on out in the first half, Loyola’s lead would hover around 10, eventually even increasing to 13 with a layup from Kennedy with 5:46 to go.

Northern Iowa’s shooting was held to abysmal levels throughout the first half, and around halfway through the half — at the second timeout at 9:48 — the Panthers were only shooting 22% from the field and 0% from three-point territory.

However, their numbers would slightly increase in the last two minutes of the game as the team would sink five out of six of their shots from the field in a row, contributing to a 7-3 run. 

The Ramblers then responded with an 8-0 run. A layup by junior forward Tom Welch, a three-pointer by Williamson and a buzzer beater three by redshirt junior guard Braden Norris sent Loyola to halftime with a 16-point lead and a score of 39-23.

Norris was also a key figure for the Ramblers in the first half as he shot 100% overall, tallying 13 points during the 20 minutes of play.  

Loyola was able to hold the Panthers to their lowest scoring half of the season — averaging 31.3% from the floor and 16.7% from three-point territory. On the other side of  the court, Loyola’s field goal shooting percentage was a solid 51.61% and were 42.86% from beyond the arc.

The second half began with a three from Green to cut Loyola’s lead to 13 points. A technical foul then called on Loyola head coach Drew Valentine led Green to score two more points for the Panthers and put them within 11 points of the Ramblers.

The Ramblers were then held scoreless for over four minutes until Kennedy could get a shot in with 16:16 to go. Following Green’s shot, UNI was also held scoreless from the field for more than three minutes.

Loyola was forced into a scoring drought for three minutes until Schiweger was able to score three and bring the score to 44-33. The beginning of the second half went by much slower on the offensive end than the first, with occasions of two to three minutes passing before either team scored.

After a brief leave due to hitting his head minutes earlier, junior forward Tom Welch checked back in for the Ramblers right before the second timeout with 11:57 to go. 

UNI outscored the Ramblers 12-5 in the first 10 minutes of the second half due to the Ramblers’ slower offensive pace. By the 10 minute mark, Loyola was on a 3:16 scoring drought and the Panthers had not scored from the field in 5:12.

Loyola’s scoreless run would be remedied by a three-pointer from Schwieger, followed almost a minute later by one from Norris to bring the Ramblers’ lead back up to 13. Northern Iowa’s scoring drought from the field stretched to over seven minutes by the media timeout with 8:09 left to play.

A block by Knight with 6:34 to go, set up Schwieger to score both free throws on a shooting foul, ending Loyola’s 2:39 scoring drought. 

However, the stalemate from the field continued for both teams as UNI’s drought grew to 10 minutes and Loyola’s stretched to nearly four. Graduate forward Aher Uguak was able to dunk one in with 5:04 to play to cut the Ramblers’ scoreless run.

As the Panthers shooting percentage continued to drop and their scoreless drought barrelled on past 13 minutes, Loyola increased its lead to 18 points. Capping the game with an 11-1 run over the last 2:59, the Ramblers soard past the No. 1 seed to take a 23-point victory with a score of 66-43. 

Northern Iowa finished the game only shooting 23.20% from the field and 16.70% from beyond the arc, while the Ramblers went 41.10% and 38.50%, respectively. Green finished the game held to only 13 points with 20% shooting from the field. 

Loyola will go on to play in the MVC Championship March 6 against the winner of No. 2 Missouri State University and No. 3 Drake University. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game is set to be broadcast on CBS.

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