After scoring back-to-back threes in the final minute of the game, a late-game foul called against the Ramblers with four minutes to play gave Rhode Island the win on Loyola’s senior night and home game finale of the 2022-23 season.
Rhode Island Escapes With the Win, Spoils Senior Night for Loyola
Back-to-back threes for the Loyola men’s basketball team (9-20, 3-14) within the last minute of the game tied the match at 77 for the Ramblers. With two seconds left on the clock, a foul against the University of Rhode Island resulted in two made free throws from the Rams, as they left Gentile with a 79-77 win March 2 on Loyola’s Senior Night and home game finale for the 2022-23 season.
The two Ramblers honored at Senior Night were graduate center Bryce Golden and graduate forward Jeameril Wilson. Both playing in their first year with the Ramblers, the transfers have been important rotational players, averaging 5.5 and 3.1 points per game, respectively.
To start the game, junior forward Philip Alston won the tip-off and scored two free throws on the same possession after being fouled on a layup. Rhode Island responded with a jumper and a layup, but its two-point lead wouldn’t last long.
Redshirt first-year Ben Schwieger came back with a three-pointer, complemented by a Tom Welch layup, getting an and-one after being fouled on the shot to give Loyola a four-point lead. However, Rhode Island hit back harder, going on a scorching 12-2 run over the next three minutes to give the Rams the lead as the score stood at 16-10.
To break Loyola’s two-minute scoring drought, Kennedy scored on a driving layup to cut the Ramblers’ deficit to four. Two free throws by the Rams’ Jalen Carey gave Rhode Island its six-point lead back, but a 6-0 run by the Ramblers sparked by a highlight, reverse-layup by Wilson tied the game at 18.
The Rams were quick to recover the lead after a wide-open Ishamel Legget drained a three-pointer, followed by an alley-oop dunk by Alex Tchikou. Consistent points on the paint and high-pressure defense slowly helped Rhode Island build a 10-point lead over Loyola as the scoreboard read 41-31.
The rest of the half was a defensive standoff, as neither team was able to score a field goal in the last three minutes of the half. Loyola was able to cut its deficit down to seven heading into halftime, capped off by a Wilson block on an attempted Rams three-pointer.
At the half, Loyola and Rhode Island looked like equal rivals from the floor, as they shot 52% and 51.7%, respectively. However, the Rams grabbed seven more rebounds than the Ramblers and led them in second-chance points, points from three-point territory, and points of turnovers.
Both teams started the second half with two-point scores in their first possessions, but a three-pointer and a layup on the fastbreak helped Rhode Island extend its lead to 12 early in the second half.
The Rams were able to extend its lead up to 17 over the first five minutes of the game after starting the second half hot with a 10-2 run.
To break the Ramblers’ scoring drought, redshirt senior guard Braden Norris scored eight unanswered points off back-to-back three-pointers and two free throws to put the Ramblers within nine. A second-chance layup by junior center Jacob Hutson capped off a 10-0 run for the Ramblers’ to put them back within seven.
Two free-throws and a jumper by Tchikou would then give the Rams a double-digit lead as the score stood at 60-49, but first-year guard Jalen Quinn took matters into his own hands, scoring six unanswered points to cut the Ramblers’ deficit to five.
The Rams quickly returned the favor, scoring six unanswered points, but Loyola wasn’t backing down. Wilson and junior guard Sheldon Edwards combined for seven points over the next three minutes to put the Ramblers within a mere four points as the scoreboard read 66-62.
Over the last three-minutes of the game, the Ramblers were able to get eight points off Edwards’ hot hand, which shot for two three-pointers — the latter coming with 44 seconds left in the game and putting Loyola within three.
A missed stepback by Leggett with 17 seconds left in the game sent the Ramblers on a fastbreak. Edwards then found Norris for a catch-and-shoot three that caught nothing but net, tying the game at 77 as Gentile Arena erupted in disbelief.
The Rams took the ball to the Ramblers’ end of the field and with four seconds left in the game, a shooting foul was called on Alston, sending Leggett to the line for a pair of free throws. Leggett scored both, and with four seconds left on the clock, Loyola was unable to score again, giving the Rams a 79-77 win.
Loyola Head Coach Drew Valentine said he wasn’t able to see the foul call properly, but said blaming the refs for a loss is not something he grew up doing.
“Even though I’m going to fight for my guys during the game with the officials…if I tried to blame the refs after the game, when my dad coached me, I was never allowed to do that,” Valentine said. “That’s not what we’re going to do as a part of this program. We’re going to take accountability and ownership over the outcome of the game.”
The Loyola men’s basketball season will finish regular season play when it visits LaSalle University in Philadelphia March 4. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN+.
Featured image by Griffin Krueger | The Phoenix