INDIANAPOLIS — If the pregame prayer sounded extra like a scouting report, it was. And if Sister Jean didn’t have any plans for subsequent weekend, nicely, she does now.
Loyola Chicago carried out its 101-year-old superfan’s plans to a T on Sunday, transferring to the Candy 16 with a 71-58 win over Illinois, the primary No. 1 seed bounced from this yr’s NCAA Event.
Cameron Krutwig delivered a 19-point, 12-rebound masterpiece and the quick-handed, eighth-seeded Ramblers (26-4) led wire to wire. They befuddled a robust Illinois offense to return to the second weekend three years after their final magical run to the Last 4.
A tough behavior to interrupt for these Ramblers. And a traditional case of nun-and-done for the Illini.
Loyola Chicago will subsequent play both Oklahoma State or Oregon State, who had been set to satisfy later Sunday.
“We simply executed, performed our recreation and managed the sport from the beginning,” Krutwig mentioned. “No person was actually doing something out of physique or out of thoughts. We simply caught to the sport plan.”
Who wrote it?
A few of Loyola’s knowledge comes from Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the venerable crew chaplain, who headlined the crew’s 2018 run to the Last 4 and acquired each COVID-19 vaccination pictures so she might journey to Indianapolis to see what inspiration she might present in 2021.
Earlier than taking on this recreation from the luxurious suite — sitting in her wheelchair and decked out in her trademark maroon and gold scarf — Jean delivered a pregame prayer that might’ve been stripped straight from a John Picket handbook.
“As we play the Combating Illini, we ask for particular assist to beat this crew and get an important win,” she mentioned. “We hope to attain early and make our opponents nervous. We now have an important alternative to transform rebounds as this crew makes about 50% of layups and 30% of its 3 factors. Our protection can care for that.”
From her mouth to their ears.
Illinois (24-7) earned prime seeding for the primary time since its personal Last 4 run in 2005, however fell behind by 14 within the first half and by no means received inside hanging vary. The Illini dedicated 16 turnovers and scored 23 factors fewer than their season common. A crew that lives for simple buckets in transition received two fast-break factors.
Illinois’ 7-foot second-team All-American Kofi Cockburn completed with 21 factors on 7-for-12 capturing, however labored laborious for each shot in opposition to the pestering presence of Krutwig and Co.
Loyola’s handsy guards, Lucas Williamson (14 factors) and Keith Clemons (two steals), saved first-team All-American Ayo Dosunmu from ever discovering his consolation zone. He completed with 9 factors, 11 underneath his season common. Illini guard Trent Frazier went 1 for 10 for 2 factors.
Loyola held its lead within the 8-to-12-point vary by many of the second half, and although Illinois made just a few 4-0 flurries, it by no means made this a one-possession recreation.
“We tried the whole lot within the bag,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood mentioned. “All the things that’s made us one of the vital environment friendly offensive groups, as we speak, only for no matter motive, didn’t work.”
Krutwig can also be an All-American — a third-teamer who regarded all-world on this one.
Posting up, pivoting, dishing when obligatory and inflicting every kind of bother on protection within the paint, the 6-9 senior performed greater. He additionally had 5 assists and 4 steals. Krutwig was with Loyola for the final Last 4 journey, and has since change into certainly one of solely 4 gamers in Missouri Valley Convention historical past to file 1,500 factors, 800 boards, and 300 assists.
And there’s an opportunity for extra.
It’s a flip of occasions that Sister Jean might see occurring. Earlier than the sport, she urged Loyola, the MVC champs who’ve the nation’s finest protection (55.7 factors per recreation) and had been ranked seventeenth within the closing AP ballot, may need gotten a uncooked take care of a No. 8 seeding that put it up in opposition to a 1 so early.
There was just one solution to take care of that — by profitable. To anybody outdoors of Champaign — or now holding a freshly obliterated bracket — it’s laborious to argue this Loyola crew isn’t the breath of contemporary air this tournament-in-a-bubble sorely wanted.
Certain, there have been upsets, some drama and little groups doing large issues.
However there’s no person fairly like Sister Jean to place the entire thing in perspective. The Ramblers and March Insanity — what an inspiration!
“It’s superb what occurs if you get a gaggle of younger males who imagine,” coach Porter Moser mentioned. “And these guys believed.”
IN THE CROWD
On different days, for different groups, Jerry Harkness may need been the largest celeb noticed within the crowd for Loyola Chicago. The purpose guard sparked Loyola’s national-championship run in 1963 — a win, in fact, that Sister Jean watched on an 11-inch TV loaned to her by a pal.
Extra AP school basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/School-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25