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Loyola faces Bradley in first MVC tournament
“Literally, it’s going to be forget the [regular] season,’’ junior guard Joe Crisman said after his team fell 75-72 to Evansville Saturday despite a furious closing comeback try. “Those lost seven, eight minutes—if we could bottle that…
“To play that hard—we need to go in with that mindset.’’
The Ramblers (9-21, 4-14), who have lost nine of their last ten, will be the No. 10 seed facing No. 7 seed Bradley, a team that took both regular season meetings.
“Turnovers were a big problem for us against Bradley,’’ said Crisman, who led the Ramblers with 20 points. “Hopefully, the momentum [from Saturday] will help.’’
The Ramblers had eight turnovers at the half but only three in the closing 20 minutes against the Purple Aces (13-18, 6-12).
But a lackluster offense to start the second half hurt the Ramblers more, opening 0-for-8 from the field as Evansville built a lead of as many as 18 points.
“We let our offense dictate our defense,’’ Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “This group has to learn when to run up hill when you’re facing adversity. This group has to find a way to bottle up the energy they played with the last six minutes.’’
The Ramblers trailed 60-47 when Crisman hit one of two free throws, then scored a layup after rebounding his missed second attempt.
Evansville’s lead shrank to 71-70 with 48 seconds left after Crisman’s three point play.
Conference scoring leader DJ Balentine (24 points) hit a reverse layup with 15 seconds left, then Loyola freshman Milton Doyle sank two free throws with eight seconds left and a 73-72 score.
But Evansville freshman Duane Gibson (22 points) made two free throws with six seconds left to secure the victory.
“We got sloppy,’’ Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. “What got us the lead was how aggressive we were, and we didn’t play the clock and the score as has as we should have.
“But give Loyola credit. They `game-plan’ as well as anyone in the league. Gibson stepped up for us and played his best game, and his two free throws at the end were huge.’’
The Ramblers will meet Bradley (12-19, 7-11) when the tournament begins in St. Louis.
The top seed is regular season champion Wichita State, which completed an undefeated 31-0 regular season on Saturday defeating Missouri State 68-45. The No. 2 Shockers will be playing to hold on to a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.