The No. 15 seeded-Loyola men’s basketball team (10-21, 4-15) fell to the No. 10 seeded-Saint Joseph’s University in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Championship.
Loyola’s Late Comeback Falls Short in First Round of A-10 Tournament Against Saint Joseph’s University
The No. 15 seeded-Loyola men’s basketball team (10-21, 4-15) fell to the No. 10 seeded-Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in the first round of the Atlantic 10 (A-10) Championship. A forceful 10 three-pointers off a hot-shooting SJU team eliminated Loyola from tournament contention and carried the Hawks to the second round.
Redshirt first-year forward Ben Schwieger opened up the scoring after senior forward Tom Welch hit him in stride for an open-look layup. Welch would make an appearance at the line on Loyola’s next possession, as he was fouled on his way to the rim, scoring both free throws to put Loyola up by four to start the game.
The Hawks were quick to respond with a 6-0 run to take the lead. A Schwieger pull-up jumper then tied the game at six, but a three-pointer by SJU’s Lynn Greer gave the Hawks a three-point lead.
In the fifth minute of the game, junior forward Philip Alston drove to the rim from the top of the key for a slam dunk, putting Rambler fans on their feet and Loyola within one. However, a three-pointer by the Hawks’ Charles Coleman put his team ahead by four as the score stood at 12-8. Shortly after, Greer scored SJU’s second consecutive three-pointer to extend the Hawks’ lead to seven.
A pull-up jumper by redshirt senior guard Braden Norris and a three-pointer by Alston — Loyola’s first of the half — cut Loyola’s deficit to two nine minutes into the game.
Straight out of a media timeout, SJU’s Christian Winborne stepped up to score on a second-chance layup to keep Loyola from extending its 5-0 run. Graduate forward Jeameril Wilson then found Schwieger for a wide-open look beyond the arc, draining the three-pointer to set the score at 17-16.
The Hawks then caught fire, as they went three for three from three-point territory while Alston scored a layup for a 9-2 SJU run. This gave the Hawks their first double-digit lead of the game as the scoreboard read 29-18.
Over the last six minutes of the first half, the Ramblers’ lockdown defense held the Hawks to a mere four points — allowing just one field goal. Meanwhile, SJU’s defense allowed nine Loyola points. With 14 seconds left in the first half, junior guard Sheldon Edwards scored a three-pointer to send the game into halftime at a score of 33-26 in favor of SJU.
At the half, SJU converted eight three-pointers on 42.1% shooting accuracy from beyond the arc compared to Loyola’s three on 30%. Greer led the shooting spree going four for four in threes, leading the game in scoring with 14 at the half.
Loyola wasted no time coming into the second half. A catch-and-shoot three-pointer by Norris after nine seconds of play was followed by another one, this time by Schwieger, to tie the game at 33.
SJU’s Erik Reynolds struck back with three free throws after getting a shooting foul in three-point territory, but a layup by junior center Jacob Hutson and a three-point play by Alston — after being fouled on a made layup — put Loyola in the lead 36-35 for the first time since the second minute of the game.
Both teams traded baskets over the next two minutes, which featured five lead changes until the sixth minute of the second half, where the Hawks went on a 7-0 run to give them a 48-42 lead.
Alston snapped SJU’s scoring run by starting one of his own, getting fouled on his way to the rim on Loyola’s next two possessions. Alston secured all four free throws and put Loyola within two with just over 11 minutes remaining.
But the Hawks weren’t letting go of their lead easily, as Winborne, Brown and Greer combined for 11 points while SJU’s defense held Loyola to a mere four, giving the Hawks a comfortable nine-point lead with just under 8 minutes to go in the game.
SJU was able to extend its lead to 10 in just under 2 minutes, holding it until the final 4 minutes of the game, when two free throws by Edwards fueled a blazing 10-2 run for the Ramblers. Capped off by a layup and a three-pointer by Norris, the Ramblers were within two of the Hawks with a minute to go.
However, a layup by Winborne shortly after gave the Hawks a four-point lead with 37 seconds left. Norris came back on the next possession to put the Ramblers within three after scoring a free throw, but two subsequent free throws by Winborne closed out the game for the Hawks at 72-67.
Following the game, Loyola Head Coach Drew Valentine said despite the loss, he was proud of the way the team competed. Now turning focus to the offseason and new players to add to his roster, Valentine said his mindset is looking towards the future.
“The message is all about getting better and improving and finding a way to get our program to where we all want it to be,” Valentine said. “Nobody should be able to shake your belief in yourself or your confidence if you’re believing, if you’re working as hard as you can and you believe in the work that you’re doing.”
The Ramblers finished their inaugural season in the A-10 at 4-15 and 10-21 overall. SJU will move on to face the No. 7-seeded George Washington March 8, tipoff is scheduled at 4 p.m. The tournament championship is on March 12 and tipoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
This story was written by Fernando Molina Bier and Gabbi Lumma
Featured image by Griffin Krueger | The Phoenix