While the eyes of the nation watched Oral Roberts upset Ohio State, the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers battled Georgia Tech in an 8/9 matchup, that for a while looked like it could go down to the wire. Ultimately, the Ramblers moved on, winning 71-60, to set up a date with 1 seed Illinois on Sunday.
Both teams, arguably, were under-seeded, and the game lived up to the hype, even if most fans didn’t tune in until the end.
The Yellow Jackets were victims of a positive COVID-19 test to ACC player of the year Moses Wright and had to play without him. Despite suiting up without its best player, Tech was the team that came out on fire, starting on 13-3 run. However, the Yellow Jackets’ lead did not last long.
Loyola responded with a 25-10 spurt of its own. The Ramblers forced the Yellow Jackets into multiple scoring droughts, including a stretch where Georgia Tech made one field in the last four minutes of the half, and Loyola forced four turnovers that led to baskets the other way. Georgia Tech’s Jordan Usher picked up his third foul on a rebound with just 3:25 to go. After being down 10 early, Loyola used its suffocating defense to build a 30-25 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Yellow Jackets showed a little life, making seven out of their first 10 shots from the field. Usher did not come out slow after a long stretch on the bench, making four straight field goals on four possessions.
While Georgia Tech got hot to build a five-point lead, the Ramblers’ shooters were able to respond. Braden Norris and Lucas Williamson hit clutch threes off of back-to-back stops as part of a quick 10-0 run to take control of the game once again.
While most thought Cameron Krutwig would dominate inside without the presence of Moses Wright, it was the wing Williamson who stepped up for the Ramblers. The senior from Chicago dominated on both ends, scoring 21 points on 8-14 shooting and making life hard for Georgia Tech guard Micheal Devoe.
Still, the Yellow Jackets stayed in the game. Battling through Loyola’s stringent defensive pressure, Jose Alvardo hit an insane pull up three to pull it within five.
Next up for Loyola, it’s an Illinois team that features a dynamic inside-out duo with Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. The Ramblers are going to need their elite defense to step up against an Illinois offense that ranks eighth overall in offensive efficiency. Being able to effectively limit Alverado and Deveo was a great test. Defending first-team All-American Dosunmu is something else entirely.