Feeling less pressure, Loyola rolls to the MVC Tournament title game


Loyola of Chicago’s Cameron Krutwig, right, dribbles as Indiana State’s Tre Williams defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s tournament Saturday, March 6, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS – In their final few weeks of the regular season, the pressure was on for Porter Moser’s team.

With Drake holding a tie-breaker for the regular season conference championship, Loyola was forced to win their last three games at Gentile Arena to assure they’d get a piece of the title. That focus worked, as the Ramblers won the outright title with three-straight wins and a last game loss by the Bulldogs at Bradley.

Perhaps the pressure is a bit off the Ramblers now as they approach the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis this weekend. Moser certainly thinks so.

“The last four games you could feel the tightness. The guys knew the magnitude of each game, those home games. We had to win them for the conference race, for the NCAA. We defended, but we were just a little bit tight,” said Moser of the end of the regular season. “Those practices leading up to here, we just talked about torching the nets. we just felt like we were loose.

“We know we can shoot it, and the guys have been really loose shooting it.”

They certainly did, and because of it, there hasn’t been much “Arch Madness” for Loyola so far. The games, frankly, haven’t been close enough in their march to the MVC Tournament championship game.

Shooting 49 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point range, the Ramblers raced out to a 14-point halftime lead and it only great from there. The 65-49 victory was the second double-digit triumph in as many days for Loyola, who now moves onto Sunday’s title game to face Drake just after 1 PM.

An NCAA Tournament big isn’t on the line for Loyola, since their work in the regular season locked up a No. 20 ranking and an at-large bit already. But a victory over the Bulldogs could boost their seeding as they return to “March Madness” for the first time since 2018.

Four starters reached double-digits in the effort with Cameron Krutwig leading the way with 18 points. Lucas Williamson had 14 with Keith Clemons kicking in 12 and Aher Uguak getting ten points, with the starters dishing out 13 of the team’s 17 assists on the night.

This performance came around 24 hours after the Ramblers shot 47 percent from the floor in a 73-49 win over Southern Illinois in the MVC Tournament quarterfinals. It’s certainly a signal to Moser that his group is feeling a little calmer as they look to sweep the championships in The Valley in 2021.

“I said before we even played our first game here you could tell the edge is a little bit off with that pressure,” said Moser.

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