INDIANAPOLIS – There’s a reason why they call it “madness.”
The premise is that on any given day in the Division I men’s basketball championship, the strongest teams can be defeated by the determined ones. That’s what has made the NCAA Tournament one of the most celebrated sporting events in America.
It already happened on Friday and Saturday in the 2021 edition of “March Madness,” with a second, third, and two four seeds going down in opening round games. But nothing compared to the chaos that Loyola brought early Sunday afternoon.
The eighth-seeded Ramblers, using a suffocating defense and consistent offense, stunned top seed Illinois 71-58 in their Midwest Region second round game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. For the second time in four seasons, the Ramblers move onto the Sweet 16, where they’ll face the winner of the Oklahoma State/Oregon State game next Saturday or Sunday.
Loyola turned heads around the country early on Sunday afternoon with an outstanding effort of the course of the first 20 minutes. A swarming defense put Illinois out of rhythm, holding them to just 36 percent shooting from the field while forcing nine turnovers.
Kofi Cockburn was held to just seven points while Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier were a combined 2-of-9 from the field, with the latter failing to hit a shot in the first half.
Cameron Krutwig spearheaded the first half effort with eight points, six rebounds, and four assists. Keith Clemons, who had three steals in the half, put Loyola up by 14 points with his three-pointer with 1:17 to go and the Ramblers were still up nine at the half.
Loyola wouldn’t let up in the second half as they continued to suffocate the Illini offense while holding onto a double-digit lead the majority of the contest. Lucas Williamson’s hoop-and-foul with 5:08 to go put the Ramblers up by 13 points as they eyed the major upset.
While the Illini tried to battle back, they weren’t able to crack the Ramblers, who added some more madness to this March on Sunday.