ST. LOUIS — Missouri Valley Conference tournament champion Loyola Chicago is headed to the NCAA Tournament on the strength of numbers and culture. The Ramblers won the Arch Madness title game, 65-49, defeating Illinois State for the third time this season.
The Ramblers (28-15) are headed to the Big Dance for the first time since 1985 and head coach Porter Moser said that when he first got the Loyola job, he kept telling people he had high hopes of this day coming.
“I told my wife, my kids and my friends, how cool would it be for a Catholic kid from Chicago to take Loyola Chicago to the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “I am so happy for these guys, because it will bind them together for the rest of their lives.”
Donte Ingram received the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award and led the Ramblers with 18 points and eight rebounds. The senior from Chicago said the team had many lessons to learn to get to this championship moment.
“We learned during the season that we had to play 40 minutes,” Ingram said. “We had to stay strong, stay solid and stay together, and now here we are, headed for the NCAA Tournament.”
Fellow senior Ben Richardson and junior Marques Townes joined Ingram on the all-tournament team. Richardson, the Valley’s Defensive Player of the Year was matched with Illinois State’s leading scorer Milik Yarbrough and held him four points under his season average, while scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds of his own.
Illinois State (18-15) shot just 31.8 percent from the field and made just five of 25 shots from long distance. Yarbrough and forward Phil Fayne led the Redbirds with 12 points a piece.
10 different Ramblers scored in the championship game win. Freshman center Cameron Krutwig scored 11 points and hauled in nine rebounds.
Valley Player of the Year Clayton Custer says advancing to the NCAA Tournament has always been in the Loyola blueprint.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Custer said. “That’s what everyone who’s coming to this program is trying to do, put Loyola back on the map. That’s what we’ve done and people are starting to pay attention to us.”
Moser and his team now await their travel assignments for the NCAA Tournament where they are sure to be a trendy upset pick.