Sunday, March 4, 2018 1:00 p.m.
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Mo.
Loyola is only one win away from an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 after a 62-54 win over Bradley on Saturday afternoon. The Ramblers will face Illinois State on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on CBS television to decide the MVC tournament championship.
Illinois State advanced to the Arch Madness final with a 76-68 overtime win over Southern Illinois in the evening game on Saturday, just a couple hours after the Ramblers secured their spot in the final. After ending regulation knotted up at 56-all, the Redbirds scored 20 points in the five minute overtime (exactly as many as in the 20-minute 2nd half) to secure the victory.
Phil Fayne, the athletic 6’9” forward, scored 26 points in the game while four other players (Malik Yarborough, Keyshawn Evans, William Tinsley, and Matt Hein) added double-digit points. Illinois State took 37 shots from the free-throw line and made 27 of them. ISU shot only 36.4% from the field in the game, but the 27 freebies and a 47-35 rebounding advantage pulled the Redbirds over the finish line.
Loyola reached the final behind timely scoring, particularly from Marques Townes (12 points) and Clayton Custer (12 points). Townes hit a big three pointer with 1:25 remaining to give the Ramblers a cushion after a long scoring drought by both teams. Lucas Williamson and Ben Richardson also hit some timely shots down the stretch to secure the win for Loyola.
The Ramblers and Illinois State have played two games this season with the Ramblers coming out on top each time. In fact, Loyola and ISU scored the same exact number of points in the first and second halves both times, with the identical 68-61 final score.
ISU has been turning it on at the end of the year now that their full complement of players has returned from illness and injury. And young players like Matt Hein (12 points on Saturday) and William Tinsley (14 points on Saturday, 12.1 points per game over his last eight contests) have been finding more consistency and confidence on the offensive end.
Loyola hasn’t looked great in their first two games at Arch Madness, but they’ve shown themselves to be a savvy, experienced and persistent bunch. One key component of the Arch Madness experience is that each game usually represents the end of the career of several players. However, Illinois State doesn’t have a single senior on their team. Hopefully the Ramblers will play well enough to make a dream come true for several seniors: Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram, Aundre Jackson, Carson Shanks, and Nick DiNardi would love to be part of Loyola’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1985. The Redbirds haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998.
It’s been one day shy of 16 years since Loyola was this close to an NCAA Tournament bid. On March 5, 2002, UIC defeated Loyola 76-75 in overtime in Cleveland at the 2002 Horizon League Tournament. Loyola last won a conference tournament in 1985, when Loyola beat host Oral Roberts in the Midwestern City Conference tournament final in Tulsa, but the Ramblers likely would have received an at large bid that season if they’d come up short in the tournament final. Loyola was a 4 seed in the 1985 NCAA Tournament and advance to the Sweet 16.
Both teams have a lot on the line Sunday.
Arch Madness Tournament Notebook: http://www.mvc-sports.com/sports/2017/8 … ntral.aspx
Loyola game notes: http://www.loyolaramblers.com/documents … df?id=6905
Illinois State game notes: Pending
TV/Streaming video: CBS / https://www.cbssports.com/cbssports
Vegas odds: Loyola by 7.5