Rushed Reactions: #11 Loyola-Chicago 69, #7 Nevada 68

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 22nd, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) is in Atlanta for the South Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Loyola-Chicago celebrates its Sweet Sixteen win over Nevada.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  1. What a game! It was billed as perhaps the least appealing contest of the Sweet Sixteen — some at Phillips Arena were calling it the JV game — but the excitement level more than made up for fact that two mid-major schools were involved. As is often the case in competitive tournament games, it was a game of big runs. Nevada stormed out of the gate and led by double-figures in the first half. Then Loyola responded with a major run of its own, outscoring the Wolf Pack by 24 points over a 17-minute stretch overlapping both halves to lead by 12. But Nevada wasn’t finished. Just as they had done against Texas and Cincinnati in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Nevada came storming back to tie things up. Finally, behind Marques Townes, Loyola was able to respond and come out on top — winning its third straight nail-biter to advance to Saturday’s regional final.
  2. Loyola’s defense turned the game around. It looked like Nevada was going to blow the Ramblers out of the building in the early going. The Wolf Pack made five layups in the game’s first five minutes and led by 12 points after 13 minutes of play. But Loyola tightened up defensively and things shifted dramatically. One of the top three-point shooting teams in the country, Nevada made just 2-of-12 deep shots in the first half. The Ramblers also forced the nation’s best ball-handling team (lowest turnover percentage) into seven first half miscues. The Ramblers’ defense was the story of the first half, but Loyola’s offense took over after intermission. It looked like the 1985 championship game performance by Villanova, as the Ramblers were on fire — connecting on its first 13 field goal attempts after the break, mostly on layups.
  3. Nevada’s versatility causes match-up problems all over the floor. Eric Musselman only plays six guys for significant minutes, but all but one of those players is between 6’6″ and 6’7″. Most of them (especially Caleb and Cody Martin) are adept at ball-handling, passing and shooting. Also, Musselman — using his coaching experience at the professional level — is great at analyzing defenses in real time to create match-up advantages for his guys. Defensively, Nevada is able to switch almost all ball screens and to use its perimeter length to bother shooters from deep.

Player of the Game. Marques Townes, Loyola-Chicago. Townes led the way with 18 points, four rebounds and five assists this evening. His dagger three with seven seconds left and the shot clock winding down put the Ramblers up by four and basically ended the game.

Quotable.

  • “They are a resilient bunch. They just keep coming.” – Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser, complimenting Nevada’s effort.
  • “I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life. That’s what you dream about.” – Loyola-Chicago’s Marques Townes, on his clutch three-pointer with seven seconds left.
  • “They play so hard. They cut hard. They played really well.” – Nevada coach Eric Musselman, on Loyola-Chicago.

Sights and Sounds. One of the beautiful aspects of the NCAA Tournament is that it produces sudden new stars that capture the fancy of the nation. Usually those newfound celebs are found on the playing floor, but this year we have an exception. Loyola’s 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean, has gotten more face time than any of the Ramblers’ players this March.

What’s Next. Loyola-Chicago advances to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1963 — the Ramblers’ National Championship season — where they will meet either #5 Kentucky or #9 Kansas State on Saturday night for the South Region championship. Nevada ends it tourney run with a 29-8 record, tying the school record for wins. The Wolf Pack reached the Sweet Sixteen for just the second time ever, and they may be even better next year if all expected key pieces return.

Brad Jenkins (327 Posts)


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