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Just two days into the tournament, things have already gotten out to a crazy start. But Loyola kicked off the madness early on Day Three with a huge upset over 1-seed Illinois.
The Ramblers are no strangers to Cinderella stories. Back in 2018 they made a run all the way to the Final Four as an 11 seed, knocking off Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State in the process. However, none of those teams were 1 seeds.
The two holdovers from 2018's Final Four team, Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson, led the way again for the Ramblers, scoring 19 and 14 points respectively. However, it was Loyola’s defense which really won the day for the Ramblers. Heading into the game, their scoring defense ranked top in the nation at 55.7 points per game. That held against the high-flying Illini offense. After averaging 81.3 points per game, Illinois could only muster 58 points in their loss.
Before the game, CBS shared an excerpt from Sister Jean's prayer for Loyola.
"As we play the Fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win," Sister Jean said. "We hope to score early and make our opponent nervous. We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50% of layups and 30% of its 3-points."Our defense can take care of that."
Turns out Sister Jean’s prayer— and scouting report— was spot on. Loyola got out to a 9-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game, and never looked back. In fact, they never trailed throughout the game. The Illini only connected on 28.6% of their 3-point attempts in the loss, and the Ramblers outrebounded them 31-27.
Up next for the Ramblers, the winner between 12-seed Oregon State and 4-seed Oklahoma State.