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Loyola’s storied run comes to an abrupt end against Michigan

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There was no miracle, no magical moment in the end as the Layola Ramblers saw the dream of being in the championship game shattered.

Loyola fans watched in disbelief as the final seconds of the game hit triple zeros, the harsh reality of the end of their Cinderella story settling in as Michigan players swarmed the court after gruelingly fighting in the last eight minutes to come back from double digits and win, 67-59, at the 2018 Final Four  at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX.

Eight minutes is what defined the difference between the two.

The first half of the game started with Michigan being the first to strike and grow an eight-point lead against Layola within the first eight minutes of the first half. The Ramblers, however, were not easily intimidated by the deficit. 

“They’re good. They wouldn’t be here if they were not good,” Michigan Wolverines head coach, John Beilin, said. “They beat a Kansas State team that just beat Kentucky. Miami is a very good team.”

Loyola’s Cameron Krutwig and Marques Townes led the charge against the Wolverines; defensively rallying the Ramblers past the Wolverines – who turned the ball over eight times in the first half – to take the lead in the last eight minutes of the first half. 

“We had eight turnovers in the first half. We were one and eight. I don’t think you’ve ever seen one of our teams ever be one assist to eight turnovers,” Beilin said. “We went 2-for-5 at the foul line. And they came out and we — I shouldn’t say we didn’t expect it; we had to adjust to how quickly they were rotating to some of our action, because they were switching so much”

The Ramblers held a seven point lead (29-27) into the half with the Wolverines unable to slow down Loyola’s momentum; painting it as if the Ramblers had the opportunity to pull another upset.

“Coach just told us to be ready to be in a boxing match and to keep fighting for the ball,” Michigan sophomore guard, Charles Mathews, said. “He said we have to continue to be aggressive and get stops.” 

Michigan wasn’t deterred and made the adjustments required at the half.

“They played a great game,” Layola Ramblers head coach, Porter Moser, said. “They did what great teams do. They capitalized on that run where we made six turnovers in a row.”

At the beginning of the second half, it appeared that it was going to be a continued performance from the first half. The Ramblers maintained a 12-point lead within nine and a half minutes into the second quarter. 

However, it was appearant that Michigan’s tactics were beginning to disrupt Loyola’s momentum.

Michigan’s adjustments kept Loyola at bay at the paint, discombobulating their synchronization that allowed Michigan to capitalize on Loyola’s six turnovers. Michigan wound up cutting the deficit down to three points in the final eight minutes of the second half. 

“They [Michigan] are a really good defensive team,” Loyola junior guard, Marques Townes said. “We had an emphasis to try and take care of the ball, they sped us up and we had a couple of bad turnovers. They were then able to hit a lot of big time shots towards the end when they went on their run.”

Eight minutes is what defined the difference between the two.

In the last eight minutes of the second half, Michigan put a defensive front against Loyola that not only helped them tie the game (47-47; seven minutes left), but reclaim the lead against the Ramblers. 

Defensively, the Wolverines kept the Ramblers at bay, outscoring them 22-10 for a total score of 69-57; pushing the Wolverines into the title game Monday night against the winner between the Kansas Jayhawks and Villanova Wildcats.

Loyola’s future

Although Loyola’s run in the tournament came to an end, coach Moser is confident the program has a bright future after what they accomplished this season.

“I’ve talked a lot about culture and trying to develop a culture of the way we do things,” coach Moser said. “You want it to sustain — you want it to sustain with the guys. The guys who didn’t get as many minutes, the guys that did, the Marques Townes, the Claytons, the Lucas and Krutwigs, those guys have to be the keepers of the culture. And do things a certain way. And that’s the way we’re going to do them.”

One thing is certain, no matter what, the Ramblers can always count on their biggest supporter to back them up and cheer them on; just like she did after their heartbreaking loss against Michigan. 

“Sister Jean just said it was a great season,” Loyola senior forward, Aundre Jackson, said. “She was so happy to be on this run with us and we should keep our heads high and be happy with what we accomplished.”

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