The Loyola men’s basketball team (2-3) fell to No. 24 Texas A&M University (TAMU) by a score of 67-51 in its final match of the Myrtle Beach Invitational Nov. 20. The Ramblers exited the tournament without a win, as they committed 27 turnovers in their third consecutive loss by more than 16 points.
Coming into the game, the Ramblers lost their first two games of the invitational against The University of Tulsa Nov. 17 and Boise State University Nov. 18. TAMU fell to Murray State University and the University of Colorado to face Loyola in the tournament’s consolation game for fifth place.
Loyola drew first-blood with a second-chance opportunity. Junior guard Saint Thomas snatched an offensive rebound and scored on a layup as he was being fouled, subsequently scoring the and-one. One minute later, the Aggies drained a three-pointer to tie the game at three.
First-year guard Jalen Quinn then scored a free throw to get a one-point lead, but three possessions later an inside pass by TAMU’s Andersson Garcia found Dexter Dennis, who drove to the rim to get its first lead of the game at 5-4.
The next score came off the hands of another Loyola first-year, as guard Jayden Dawson drained a three-pointer to regain the lead, but TAMU tied the game at seven with a second-chance layup by Garcia. After another tie at nine, the Aggies took a two-point lead at 11-9 with a driving layup by Tyrece Radford. Loyola had the chance to tie it again when senior guard Marquise Kennedy earned a trip to the free-throw line, but was only able to make one.
TAMU then went on a dominating 10-3 run over the next five minutes, taking a commanding 21-13 lead. The Ramblers were able to narrow their deficit down to four on two occasions, but 12 turnovers in the first half kept them from getting closer.
TAMU closed the first half strong by scoring seven unanswered points to extend its lead to 11. The Aggies kept Loyola scoreless for the last four minutes of the half to set the score at 33-22.
To start the second half, Alston lept for an offensive rebound and scored a layup to cut the Ramblers’ deficit to nine. However, a hookshot jumper by TAMU’s Julius Marble sent Loyola back to square one.
Redshirt-senior guard Braden Norris scored his first-three pointer of the game in the third minute of the second half to set the score at 35-27, but the Aggies responded with an 11-1 run over the next three and a half minutes.
Dawson tried to get the Ramblers back in rhythm with a three-pointer, but the Aggies went on a devastating 7-1 run to build a 21 point lead — their largest of the game. Up 53-32, TAMU’s selfless play was on display as none of its players scored over 10 points, also showing its depth as seven players had scored four or more points.
With seven and a half minutes to go in the game, Norris and redshirt first-year Ben Schwieger each hit a three to put Loyola within 15 and force the Aggies to take a timeout. However, TAMU returned with five unanswered points as the scoreboard read 58-38.
Two free-throws by Alston and a three-pointer by Kennedy and Dawson helped the Ramblers cut their deficit to 15 with just under two and a half minutes to go. Both teams went back-and-forth for the last two minutes, but TAMU kept a comfortable lead over Loyola for a final score of 67-51.
The Ramblers set a new Myrtle Beach Invitational record for most turnovers with 27. Along with its lack of ball security, Loyola was outscored by the Aggies in the paint by a staggering 20 points 34-14. This marks the third consecutive game in which Loyola lost by 16 or more points.
Loyola Head Coach Drew Valentine said TAMU deserves credit for their high-pressure offense, but that their turnover quantity has been brutal all year.
“At this point you can just do whatever pressure you want and we’re just going to give you the ball,” Valentine said. “You normally want an assists-to-turnover ratio but ours is turnovers-to-assists. That falls on me.”
Up next, Loyola will travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts to face Harvard University Nov. 25. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN+.